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SGI Sets Its Sights on 'Visual Area Networking'

Imagine you are a geologist on an oil rig in the middle of the ocean, when you need to access the company's supercomputer. So you flip down your wearable computer eyepiece interface and instantly access petabytes of data and teraflops of computing at gigabytes per second.

It's not science fiction, it's "Visual Area Networking" - Silicon Graphics', Inc. futuristic vision of computing, which the company touted Wednesday.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based graphics, data storage and management guru said new advances in the company's products and SGI Onyx 3000 supercomputers will soon let technical and creative professionals access supercomputer visuals from almost any mobile or consumer device over standard computer networks.

You know, devices you already work with like cell phones, television set-top boxes and those cool wearable eyepiece computers you see on engineers running around the MIT campus.

The improvements are partially based on SGI's development of a 3D standard for embedded mobile terminals based on its OpenGL graphics standard as well as tests conducted earlier this year. The demonstration showed SGI linking real-time visualization, with common PCs, Linux operating system-based tablets and a standard UNIX OS-based workstation.

The company said Visual Area Networking works with existing and future network infrastructures without any modifications. It is client independent, including small devices such as tablets, PDAs, personal wearable computers. The company is also looking forward to the technology being use on mobile phones, through large-scale SGI Reality Center facilities. It allows shared application control between all participants in a session.

"SGI is radically changing the way the world uses computer graphics," said SGI chairman and CEO Bob Bishop. "In January of this year we introduced the breakthrough concept of Visual Area Networking that is revolutionizing the way our customers work. Now, a mere six months later, we're extending the technology even further to a variety of mobile and wireless devices to enable our technical and creative customers with anytime and anywhere access to advanced visualization capabilities."

Bishop said the Visual Area Networking will let users see graphics on their screens generated by an SGI supercomputer at thousands of times the detail and complexity that normally could be handled by PCs, with their limitations in graphics and data handling capability.

For example, using Visual Area Networking, the company said an SGI Onyx 3000 series visualization system could serve up visual representations of floor plans of an unfamiliar building to police or rescue workers wearing a wireless, personal wearable computer with headset/goggles for emergency search and rescue operations.

Or, designers could someday use Visual Area Networking via Internet-enabled set-top boxes to perform collaborative product design regardless of whether they are in a hotel, on the road or at home.

"The power of SGI visualization supercomputers is literally put into the hands of people like surgeons performing virtual surgeries on the battlefield or emergency response workers performing search-and-rescue missions," Bishop said.