Published: Oct. 29, 2001

State and University of Colorado officials along with several major industry sponsors today unveiled a multi-million-dollar visualization center that offers advanced immersive visualization capabilities for a variety of business sectors, as well as opportunities for scientists to better understand the natural environment.

The advanced, three-dimensional "virtual" environment already has saved the oil and gas industry millions of dollars in exploration and development costs. It allows engineers and geoscientists to collaborate more efficiently, and to more accurately comprehend complex geologic formations than would be possible with traditional tools.

The Immersive Visualization Environment (IVE) is the crown jewel of the new BP Center for Visualization at the University of Colorado at Boulder, made possible through a $10.6 million gift from BP last fall and augmented by additional gifts of more than $2 million. The gift established the interdisciplinary research center in the College of Engineering and Applied Science, co-sponsored by the College of Arts and Sciences, and also will provide "satellite" visualization environments at CU's Center for Human Simulation at Fitzsimons, and at the new Discovery Learning Center in CU-Boulder's College of Engineering.

"We are excited about the creation of the state-of-the-art visualization center at the University of Colorado and about the positive effects it will have on CU, this state and the region for many years to come," said CU President Elizabeth Hoffman. "The BP Center for Visualization will greatly enhance CU's commitment to technological innovation and reflects the university's dedication to excellence in research, teaching and technology," she said.

"I want to thank our industry sponsors -- BP, Landmark Graphics, SGI, Lockheed Martin and Paradigm Geophysical -- for partnering with us in the development of this important new technology."

Colorado Secretary of Technology Marc Holtzman added: "This partnership aligns perfectly with the Governor's vision to bring the efforts of academia and private industry together. BP's generous contribution will enable the University of Colorado to expose students to cutting-edge technologies and will serve as a catalyst to encourage students to pursue degrees in advanced technology disciplines."

The main IVE in Boulder consists of a 12 x 12 x 10-foot screened space, into which high-powered computerized images are projected, allowing scientists and engineers to interact with a natural or artificial environment by viewing it close up and from different angles. The system tracks the location of users and allows them to alter the position of the images as they interact with the environment.

The technology offers opportunities to better understand atmospheric and geologic conditions, reconstruct archeological sites, simulate aviation and even explore the inside of the human body. Additional applications include design testing for manufacturers and architectural and urban planning.

According to Tony Meggs, BP's group vice president for technology: "The BP Center will expand the use of immersive visualization technology beyond the traditional applications in the energy industry to new areas such as weather forecasting, human health, aerospace and agriculture. CU and the State of Colorado are uniquely positioned with a blend of academic skills and institutions, high technology and aerospace companies, and telecommunications to make the most of the BP Center for Visualization."

John Gibson, president and CEO of Landmark Graphics, said the center "provides an opportunity for the top professionals from many different industries to share in the exciting innovations taking place in the oil and gas industry. Landmark invented and marketed the world's first 3D seismic processing solution in 1982, and we know that the technology can offer critical insights to anyone trying to make sense of complex data in a visual way," Gibson said.

"From finding oil and clean burning gas in the most environmentally sensitive way, to discovering clean water, hidden contamination sources or helping to design more fuel efficient vehicles and buildings, this center will have applications that will help us all see the future in a very new and exciting way."

CU-Boulder BP Center for Visualization


The BP Center for Visualization is a new, interdisciplinary research center at the University of Colorado at Boulder, established through a $10.6 million gift from BP (formerly British Petroleum) announced in October 2000.

Based in the College of Engineering and Applied Science, and co-sponsored by the College of Arts and Sciences, the center spent the last year renovating a 7,800-square-foot facility on the East Campus, at 3400 Marine St., to house its reconfigurable Immersive Visualization Environment (IVE).

ARCO developed the visualization technology for use in oil and gas exploration. Subsequent to its acquisition of ARCO in April 2000, BP donated the visualization equipment, intellectual property and some operating revenue to the university. Geoffrey Dorn, the center's executive director, came to CU-Boulder with several other members of BP's visualization research team.

Other major sponsors of the center are Landmark Graphics, SGI, Lockheed Martin and Paradigm Geophysical. The center is co-hosted by the departments of computer science and aerospace engineering sciences in the College of Engineering and Applied Science, and the department of geological sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences.

The BP gift also provided a smaller Immersive Visualization Environment to be installed at the CU School of Medicine in the Center for Human Simulation. A workbench-size system also will be set up in the new Discovery Learning Center being constructed by the College of Engineering and Applied Science at CU-Boulder.

The mission of the BP Center for Visualization includes:

* Conducting basic research in visualization technology;

* Developing and enhancing the application of visualization technology to a range of disciplines;

* Educating undergraduate and graduate students in visualization technology and applications;

* Commercialization of both donated and newly developed intellectual property to help sustain the research and development program.

The visualization industry involves 5,500 people worldwide, 59 percent of them in North America and 28 percent in Europe. The size of the market is projected to be $37 billion in 2001, which represents more than 50 percent growth in annual revenue over 2000.

There are already an estimated 40,000 users of visualization technology on six continents, primarily in the areas of energy exploration, medical training and virtual prototyping for manufacturing. Potential growth areas include aviation simulation, telecommunications, architectural and urban planning, military operations and training, archeological site reconstruction, atmospheric science and the entertainment industry.

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