Virtual Reality for Data Visualization

Contact Persons: MICHAL KOUTEK and FRITS POST ,

Scientific data visualization has a long tradition by the group of Computer Graphics and CAD/CAM (ITS). Usually data visualization takes place on common graphics workstations. In 1998, Virtual Reality Responsive Workbench was installed by the HPaC (High Performance Applied Computing Center) at TU DELFT. This facility is intended to provide high-performance visualization and data analysis for the research groups at TU Delft participating in HPaC. In past years we have cooperated with research groups from other faculties (CP-TN, CP-WT, OCP) and also outside our university (TNO – FEL, Delft WL|Hydraulics).

Michal Koutek is currently finishing his Ph.D. research on the topic of “Visualization and exploration of scientific data sets using Virtual Reality”. He has been supervising several students during their graduation projects using this VR system.

Virtual Environments (VE) offer a new potential by a more intensive experience of 3D spatial information and natural forms of interaction, to increase the understanding of dynamic spatial relationships. This intensive exposure of scientists to simulation models and data is achieved by representing these as 3D artificial worlds that are suitable for navigation, interaction, and quantification.

Responsive Workbench (RWB) is a wooden projection table VR system containing an RGB projector and two mirrors. It displays stereo images coming from an SGI Onyx 2 graphics server (4 processors, Infinite Reality 2 graphics card). Electromagnetic tracking system is used for measuring of position and orientation of input sensors (head-tracker, stylus, plexi-pad). Shutter glasses create an illusion of depth in stereo images. This VR system allows performing interactive 3D explorations of data. The laboratory table metaphor makes the usage of the workbench very intuitive.

Research objectives:

Demonstration of various visualization applications in VR

Full story with more detailed description of our VR case studies: VR_Article.pdf

MolDRIVE: VR system for visualization and steering of remotely running real-time MD simulations. Visualization runs on the Virtual Workbench. Simulations run in parallel on the supercomputers. The user can interact with the MD simulation and exert a force on the particles and perform a particle steering. MolDRIVE provides a virtual laboratory for molecular dynamics interactive experiments.

RWB-Simulator overview of the MolDRIVE workplace.

High Performance Applied Computing (HPaC) Center provides super computers for scientific simulations. It is situated in the Faculty of Applied Sciences (TN). Fast local network enables fast transmission of simulation data from the supercomputers to the visualization and control server,
which is operated from the Responsive Workbench.

The Spring Manipulator is used for particle steering of an atom from MD simulation of the Beta-Alumina electrolyte.

The Spring Manipulator is used for particle steering of an atom from MD simulation of a protein and a carbon polymer resp. (right upper image)

More about MolDRIVE:

A very nice MolDRIVE video (MPEG 25MB)...

VRX concept: to make a best profit from Virtual Reality for data visualization by enabling intuitive 3D exploration of data in the Virtual Environment. We use the two-handed interaction scenario based on the metaphor of notepad and pen: PlexiPad and stylus.

Medical applications can profit from the table metaphor. Maybe one day we will be able to perform virtual surgery on virtual patients. Currently, we can see medical applications like learning of human anatomy, pre-operative research of patients and preparation for surgical intervention using VR. Virtual Environment can offer an illusion of 3D objects, which one can touch and manipulate. Medical data are converted to some geometrical and visual form. VR improves spatial orientation in data, which is a very important in the whole field of medicine.

More about VRX (including animations):

Visualization of atmospheric data: Cumulus Clouds

The Spring-based Manipulation Tools provide visual feedback of acting forces and the deformation of the tools gives feedback on collisions during object manipulation. The Spring Tools were adapted for the particle steering in Molecular Dynamics, see above.

For more information about projects in the area of data visualization in VR please contact:

Frits Post ( or Michal Koutek ( .