University of California at San Diego

In order to successfully collaborate with partner universities through video conferencing and visualization of large-sized data sets, the University of California at San Diego purchased 46” and 55” X Series displays.

Quick Facts
  • Facility: University of California at San Diego
  • Location: San Diego, CA
  • Challenge: Foster collaboration through the testing of computer cluster capabilities
  • Solution: 46” NEC X461UN, X462UN and 55” X551UN

Many universities have begun advancing their information technology resources as a way for researchers and educators to better communicate and collaborate with one another. As one of the nation's leading research universities, the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) trains its students and staff to excel and create global impact through advanced learning processes. UCSD's California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2) builds and installs visualization clusters around the world for use at partner universities.

The Challenge

Calit2 has consistently been ahead of the competition when it comes to utilizing display technology. It uses wall-sized visualization facilities, or clusters, called "OptIPortables" to display resolutions 10 to 100 times that of a normal PC. Built from projectors in the past and LCD displays presently, the OptIPortables allow simultaneous video conferencing and visualization of large-sized data sets. Calit2's global research teams use the OptIPortables to foster multidisciplinary studies and collaborate through the Internet with the common goal to take ideas beyond theory into practice and accelerate innovation.

Traditionally, a basic OptIPortable consists of four 46", one-megapixel screens on wheels and a separate 60" screen for video conferencing. Users are able to run programs off their laptop, tablet or smartphone. Manipulation of the OptIPortable can be handled through a tablet that allows freehand writing over the four screens. To increase the complexity of an OptIPortable, additional modules can be wheeled together to increase the screen real estate. For example, three 2x2 OptIPortables create one large 2x6 configuration. The wheels also allow for simple transportation and easy storage.

"Many of our digital tiled display walls in recent years were built from NEC panels because they have consistently offered the narrowest bezels we could purchase at the time, a critical issue for viewing super-high-resolution imagery," said Thomas A. DeFanti, director of visualization for Calit2 at UCSD. "A major concern for our installations is the availability of the displays in the size categories that we need."

With a recent transition to 3D systems, DeFanti's philosophy on the purpose and design of OptIPortables has evolved. He has made the case with partner universities across the globe that LCD displays, especially those with LED-backlights, are the best technology for 2D and 3D collaboration due to the slimmer depth, optional calibration and high brightness for heavily lit areas. Additionally, the displays are cheaper to replace than maintain since the newer technology is continually becoming more energy-efficient. In order to achieve success in each project, UCSD demands reliable, robust displays that can withstand the rigorous testing.

The Solution

Longtime colleagues of DeFanti at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) built the first NEC tiled display wall in June 2009. This configuration included 18 46" X461UN ultra-narrow LCD displays and was installed in the Electronic Visualization Laboratory to enhance student learning.

UIC's success led UCSD to work on a similar project at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia. Calit2 and KAUST installed a 4x10 video wall comprised of 40 X461UN displays in August of 2009. A portable version (the OptIPortable) is being adopted quickly by worldwide partners.

In March 2010, UCSD installed a 4x4 video wall with 16 X461UN displays at Calit2. The displays' near-seamless bezels, industrial-strength panels and Rapid Response™ technology for virtually uninterrupted, undistorted viewing of high-speed, full-motion video were key specifications that benefitted the new deployment.

Additional projects by UCSD around the world include a 4x5 X461UN video wall in the lobby of the Jacobs' School of Engineering's Engineering Building and a 10x10 X461UN video wall in China.

UCSD was pleased with the performance of the NEC X Series displays in these partner environments, and the outcome of the projects were so well-received that it bought additional displays to expand its own uses. UCSD purchased another 10 46" X462UN ultra-narrow LCD displays for its latest deployment in May 2011. This new Virtual Room at Calit2 is nicknamed "Vroom" and will house three large walls of stacked OptIPortables, one of which includes eight 2x2 OptIPortables, comprised of 32 X462UN displays. When combined, it becomes a 2x16 wall configured in an outward-facing square. This 14'x14' module forms a booth entirely made of screens, which will be used by KAUST at SIGGRAPH '11 in Vancouver.

"The new Vroom video wall has enabled our researchers and their students to take their collaboration capability to a new level and has challenged them to explore new areas of information technology with a completely immersive mixed media environment," said DeFanti. "The response we have received is incredible. We are placing NEC displays throughout Calit2 because of their reliability, aesthetics for viewing and broad connectivity options. The ultra-high-resolution imagery and interactive experience that the wall provides is outstanding."

Always growing and improving, UCSD is looking forward to receiving its 55" X551UN displays to test the resolution capabilities.

"We'd like to see improved energy conservation and power management in display technology, 3D capability and a built-in multi-touch input capability," said DeFanti. "Our faculty, researchers and students are consistently getting deeper into collaboration using display technology to overcome distance barriers. We look forward to continuing our technology expansions with products."