November 14, 2005
Purdue offers open-source software for virtual reality collaborations
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. Researchers at Purdue University's Rosen Center for Advanced Computing have created open-source software that makes it easier to collaborate in virtual reality environments with colleagues at other locations.
The Access Grid Juggler software, now available free of charge on the Internet, eliminates the need to create customized programs. The software, referred to as AGJuggler, can be used on platforms ranging from desktop simulators to a sophisticated virtual reality system called a CAVE, or cave automatic virtual environment, in which users are immersed in an interactive 3-D environment.
"For example, if you were a chemist and you had software to do 3-D research and you wanted to work with people at other institutions, you would have to write a custom program to connect your two CAVES together," said Laura Arns, associate director of Purdue's Envision Center, which is part of the Rosen Center. "With this software, you write your program just like you normally would for one CAVE. Then you add this software, and it automatically lets you connect both CAVES."
Researchers will announce the software's release on Tuesday (Nov. 15) at an annual supercomputing conference called SC|05 at the Washington State Convention and Trade Center in Seattle.
Although commercial toolkits exist for collaborative virtual reality, AGJuggler is available as open source so anyone can use, modify or improve it, Arns said.
AGJuggler can be integrated with a system of hardware and software called Access Grid, which is commonly used for videoconferencing.
"There is other commonly used software called VRJuggler, which enables you to create virtual environments, while Access Grid software lets you do videoconferencing and share audio, video and PowerPoint presentations," Arns said. "AGJuggler now basically lets you combine VRJuggler and Access Grid.
"The idea is that you can visualize your data and videoconference at the same time, so you can have discussions about your data and point things out to each other in the virtual world."
AGJuggler has been developed over the past 18 months, primarily by Arns and Dioselin Gonzalez, a research assistant.
"One of our major goals at the Rosen Center is finding ways to make supercomputing more accessible," Arns said. "Companies and universities are becoming increasingly distributed rather than located at a single site.
"We hope that other groups will begin to use AGJuggler for collaborative teaching and research between sites and across different institutions."
AG Juggler can be obtained by going to the Access Grid community portal at http://trac.agcentral.org/AGJuggler.
Emil Venere, (765) 494-4709, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dioselin Gonzalez, (765) 496-7888, email@example.com
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