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SBU’s Reality Deck breaks one billion-pixel resolution barrier


November 18, 2012

The Reality Deck at SBU boasts 416 high resolution screens

The Reality Deck at SBU boasts 416 high resolution screens

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If you’re impressed by the 4K TVs set to hit the market from the likes of Sony, Toshiba and LG, then get an eyeful of the new Reality Deck officially opened at New York’s Stony Brook University (SBU) last week. Described by its creator as the closest thing in the world to Star Trek’s holodeck, the four walls of the Reality Deck are covered in a total of 416 high resolution screens that provide a total resolution of 1.5 billion pixels. SBU says this makes it the largest resolution immersive display ever built driven by a graphic supercomputer.

Measuring 33 x 19 x 10 feet (10 x 5.8 x 3 m), SBU says the Reality Deck is the first facility of its kind to break the one billion-pixel barrier and gives it a resolution five times greater than its nearest rival.

Project Director, Arie E. Kaufman, PhD, Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Computer Science Department and Chief Scientist of SBU’s Center of Excellence in Wireless and Information Technology (CEWIT), said that if every one of the approximately 300 million Americans were to take a class photo from a satellite, “there would be enough resolution for each person to be depicted in five pixels in color.”

As cool as that might be, the Reality Deck’s primary purpose is to give scientists, engineers and physicians the ability to visualize vast amounts of data.

“This technology will be used for visualizing and analyzing big data, such as advanced medical imaging, protein visualization, nanotechnology, astronomical exploration, micro tomography, architectural design, reconnaissance, satellite imaging, security, defense, detecting suspicious persons in a crowd, news and blog analyses, climate and weather modeling, as well as storm surge mapping to fight flood disasters, such as Superstorm Sandy and global warming,” said Dr. Kaufman.

“In the Reality Deck, data is displayed with an unprecedented amount of resolution that saturates the human eye, provides 20/20 vision, and renders traditional panning or zooming motions obsolete,” Dr. Kaufman added. “Users just have to walk up to a display in order to resolve the minutiae, while walking back in order to appreciate the context that completely surrounds them.”

The Reality Deck also boasts an “infinite canvas” feature that changes displayed images in relation to a viewer walking around the room. This allows infinitely large data to be explored without the same image ever being viewed twice. Applications for the real time display of streaming video are also in the works.

Images are fed to the displays by a 20-node visualization cluster packing 240 CPU cores providing 2.3 TFLOPS of computing power with 1.2 TB of distributed memory and 80 GPUs providing 2.3 TFLOPS with 320 GB of distributed memory. There is also a surround sound system with 22 speakers and four subwoofers.

At the ribbon cutting ceremony on November 15, the Reality Deck was demonstrated with the display of water level mapping from storm surge due to extreme weather events, satellite imagery of New York City and parts of Long Island demonstrating next-gen Google maps, the 2008 Presidential inauguration, Milky Way visualization from NASA and the European Southern Observatory, and protein visualizations of the E. coli bacteria, just to name a few.

The Reality Deck was constructed thanks to a US$1.4 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) supplemented by $600,00 from SBU.

Source: SBU

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag. All articles by Darren Quick

this technology will enable invisibility cloaks to really become invisible from any viewing angle

Tibi Georgescu

Get rid of the intersecting lines and you might have something. Otherwise, it's just a bunch of stacked TVs.


what JAT said. too bad there's no Like button, there might be a few million "me toos".

John Comeau

Should have a Macintosh Plus on a pedestal in the middle of the room. ;-) Why? Because it looks like they just built the Intersect room from "Chuck".

Gregg Eshelman

The black lines completely ruin the effect, looks just like a normal video screen that you might see in a night club just with a more powerful graphics engine. Big deal!


I see the engineering challenges and appreciate the difficulty of implementation.

From an implementation point of view, given that the human eye is only sensitive to ~10M pixels viewed at about ~300mm (think holding the IPad3 with retina display at reading distance from face). Unless users get very close to these tiled screens, the extra resolution is not useful.

The better option is to use short throw 1080p projectors (set up as rear projectors on a projection wall) displaying images 40-50" for observers at 1m or further from the wall. This would achieve the same affect, but at substantially less cost, given that the number of pixels would be reduced by a factor of ~16. As far as user's eyes would be concerned, there would be no difference, especially if the images were moving.

Projectors can be set up to overlap slightly removing the need for those horrible black lines between screens.

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