3D world visualization is a term used to describe viewing real world
objects such as the human body, buildings, or molecules for the purpose
of extracting information. This form of visualization should be applied
when viewing the object in 3D or rather what is inside the object is key to
the desired users' task. While designing visualizing and navigating tools
for 3D objects is a difficult task, there is a high demand for it. For
example, the National Library of Medicine developed the
Project. As a result, there are a number of software packages which render
virtual flythroughs of the human body.
Volume visualization is, by far, the most widely used form of 3D World
Visualization. This involves rendering real world 3D objects into some
form of computerized 3D representation, whether it be projected on the 2
dimensional computer screen or viewed through immersive virtual reality
equipment. Scientific Visualization is presently the primary use of volume
visualization. Here, physical objects modeled in 3D may be studied and
examined by the user in greater detail and may even be manipulated in order to,
for example, test scientific hypotheses, simulate an event or process, or to
practice a procedure. Current applications of this type include medical
imaging, surgical teaching and planning, and weather modeling. Arie Kaufman
has an excellent tutorial on volume visualization in his article, Introduction to Volume Visualization, referred to later
in the Citations section.
Uses of virtual reality and VRML (Virtual Reality Modeling Language), in
applications outside those mentioned in volume visualization previously, abound
and are becoming even more popular every day. Architects
and interior designers, for instance, are looking into using VRML to make
virtual walkthroughs of proposed sites available to their clientele on the web.
In education, children can now visit and walkthrough museums, international
historic sites (e.g. the Pyramids of Egypt), other planets, etc. without
leaving their homes or schools via the Web.
In further investigating this idea of the 3D world, a few branches were unveiled.
The first one is the concept of "real" 3D objects like those in scientific,
volume, medical, and even architectural visualization. Molecules, the human
body and the interior of a building share complex relationships
with other items. These are all objects that people may want to view the
inner structures of before really physically "entering". For this reason,
3D visualization has proven to be key in understanding the inner or
unexplored parts of objects the datasets represent. 3D visualization
brings home the idea of containment, where the user is able to navigate up,
down, forward or backward once immersed into the given environment.
The second branch in the 3D world is one that we classify as "artificial"
or "synthetic" worlds or workspace. These are computer-enhanced worlds that
have the look and feel of a real 3D world, but do not truly exist in the real
world. Take Bookhouse for example. The user is able to navigate through a
virtual reality 'library' and choose books and different stories to read. While
this does involve a walkthrough of a 3D world, it is not the concept of
needing to explore inside it that is key in understanding the dataset that is
before the user but making a choice from a collection of books to read.
And yet another category in 3D World visualization, though questionable,
includes objects that we can apply our intuition of real 3D
objects to make them seem 3 dimensional. For example,
trees, networks, GIS systems, multi-dimensional and temporal objects can all
be modeled in 3D, but does it also follow that these objects are
now part of the 3D world? WebBook and Web Forager out of Xerox Parc do
great jobs of increasing the user's capacity for understanding information
on the World Wide Web by incorporating 3D interfaces. These products,
however, though they could be labeled '3D', would be better characterized in
the 1D and Workspace
sections, respectively, or even in the general class of information or data
visualization, because of the type of information they are used to
The forth and last branch that we considered for the purpose of our research
could readily be discounted without much deliberation. We considered objects
such as 3D bar and/or pie charts, where data may be effectively visualized in 2
dimensions, to be forced 3D objects. If you have a bar chart that is rendered
in 3D instead of 2D, has the data changed? The answer is an emphatic, "No!".
The data is still 2D and thus should not be included when speaking about 3D
visualization. Although 3D renderings of bar charts or pie charts may be
appealing to some, empirical evidence suggests it makes the data more difficult
to comprehend. In other words, what the presenter has created is "chart junk"
as coined by Edward Tufte. According to Tufte, one dimension is being wasted
when this "overcoding" is applied. For this reason, the projects and products
listed on this page are intended for the purpose of making appropriate
matches of 3D data and 3D representation.
Reconstruction Home Page - NASA: page constructed by
NASA Ames Biocomputation Center with plenty of information on volume
visualization, including a link to a page listing close to
80 volume visualization software packages.
IRIS Online - Silicon
Graphics: newsletter for the Silicon Graphics community which includes
sections on visualization in medicine and science.
Parallel Volume Rendering
Home Page - Craig Wittenbrink @ The University of California, Santa Cruz:
good reference point containing links to various parallel volume rendering
software packages and pertinent papers.
Hotlist- Brian Corrie @ The Austalian National University: good 3D
reference point contains links to 3D visualization software and projects
including, in particular, a solid list of Virtual Reality and VRML resources.
Visualization - American Medical Imaging Laboratory (AMIL) of
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine: effort to construct 3d
rendered liver images for use in surgical planning in treating tumors.
U. Penn: 3D rendering software used for medical imaging.
Viewer - University of Minnesota: pan through 2D cross-sectioned slices
of a 3D object much like the Visible Human Explorer does.
Brewster, L. J., Trivedi, S. S., Tuy, H. K., Udupa, J. K.,
"Interactive Surgical Planning", IEEE Computer Graphics and
Applications, March 1984, pp. 31-40.
Cohen, D., Kaufman, A., Kong, T. Y., On the Soundness of Surface
Voxelizations, Topological Algorithms for Digital Image
Processing, T. Yung Kong and A. Rosenfeld, Eds., North-Holland,
Amsterdam, 1996, pp. 181-204.
Ebert, D., Shaw, C., Zwa, A., Miller, E., and Roberts,
D. A. "Two-handed Volumetric Document Corpus Management," IEEE
Computer Graphics and Applications, July 1997.
Farrell, E. J., Yang, W. C., Zappulla, R. A., "Animated 3D CT
Imaging", IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications, December 1985,
Goodshell, D. S., Mian, I. S., Olson, A. J., "Rendering Volumetric
Data in Molecular Systems", Journal of Molecular Graphics, March 1989,
pp. 35-36, 41-47.
Herman, G. T., Udupa, J. K., "Display of 3-D Digital Images:
Computational Foundations and Medical Applications" IEEE Computer
Graphics and Applications, August 1983, pp.39-46.
Herman, Gabor T., Applications of Volume Visualization,Volume Visualization,
IEEE Computer Society Press Tutorial, pp. 379-380, 1991.
Hibbard, W., Santek, D., "Visualizing Large Data Sets in the Earth
Sciences", Computer, August 1989, pp. 53-57.
Hoehne, K. H., Bomans, M., Pommert, A., Riemer, M., Schiers, C.,
Tiede, U., Wiebecke, G., "3D Visualization of Tomographic Volume Data
Using the Generalized Voxel Model", The Visual Computer, Feb. 1990,
Hong, L., Kaufman, A., Wei, Y., Viswambharan, A. Wax, M., Liang, Z.,
3D Virtual Colonoscopy, IEEE Frontiers in Biomedical Visualization Symposium
Proceedings, IEEE Computer Society Press, Los Alamitos, CA, October, 1995,
Huiskamp, W., Langenkamp, A. A. J., van Lieshout, P. L. J., Visualization
of 3D Empirical Data: The Voxel Processor, Visualization in Scientic
Computing, pp. 151-162, 1994.
Darken, R. P., Wayfinding Strategies and Behaviors in Large Virtual Worlds,
ACM SIGCHI Videos
CHI'96 Video Program, 1996.
EVL, University of Illinois at Chicago,Scientists in Wonderland: A Report on
Visualization Applications in the CAVE Virtual Reality Environment, ACM SIGCHI
Directions in Virtual Reality, 1994.
EVL, University of Illinois at Chicago, Virtual Reality: Immersed in High
Performance Computing and Communications, ACM SIGCHI Videos
New Directions in
Virtual Reality, 1994.
Houseman, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Observing a Volume
Rendered Fetus Within a Pregnant Patient, ACM SIGCHI Videos
New Directions in
Virtual Reality, 1994.