Anyone who thinks they have seen just about everything done on computers should visit the state-sponsored center of excellence called Research of Interactive Visualization and Imaging Technology at Brigham Young University.
Center director William A. Barrett, professor of computer science and chairman of the Computer Science Department, and several people he brought into the center because of their varied expertise, is doing some unbelievable things with computers and digital imaging that has attracted interest from several high tech companies.One of the programs the center people have developed is called "intelligent scissors." In a picture containing two people and only one image is desired for inclusion in a newsletter, for example, previously the person removing the image had to draw around the entire image.
Now, Barrett and his center workers have developed a software program that allows them to focus on one part of the image, and it is encircled and lifted off without the laborious tracing process.
One of Barrett's students presented a paper about "intelligent scissors" during the Special Interest Group in Graphics in Los Angeles in 1995. Some people from Adobe Inc. became interested and requested a showing of the technology in November 1995.
That was a prelude to the formation of the center of excellence, a program that grants money to various research programs on college and university campuses with the goal of spinning off companies and creating jobs.
With a $100,000 grant from the state, Barrett started the center in July 1996, and in July 1997 the center received $95,000 from the state. For the fiscal year beginning July 1, 1998, the center has requested another $100,000.
"Had it not been for the state's support, the center would never have become a reality," Barrett said.
Based on the presentation to Adobe, the company provided some money for licensing of the "intelligent scissors" technology and a color quantization technology that provides colored digital pictures on a television screen that look as good as the original, but with one-third the memory.
Working with Barrett are Tom Sederberg, a professor of computer science well known for his work in computer graphics, and Bryan Morse and Parris Egberg, both assistant professors of computer science at BYU. Barrett said each brings his own expertise to the center.
Another project for the center was last summer's publication of thousands of personal histories for people connected with the sesquicentennial of the pioneers entering the Salt Lake Valley. Barrett said that by using information from a variety of sources, the center wrote a person's personal history in two minutes and also included pictures if any were available.
They have compiled a personal history for BYU President Merrill Bateman and will present it to him soon.
Another project Barrett is thinking about involves the Winter Olympic Games in Utah in 2002. If a visitor is curious about various games venues, they can get on the Internet, "fly" over Salt Lake City and the venues to determine the best way to get there.
The visitor also could "run" the various skiing courses while sitting in their office or home. All of this would be three dimensional so the mountains and valleys have height and depth.