JULY 23--Advanced Visual Systems Inc. (AVS; Waltham, MA; www.avs.com) has completed a cooperative project with the ENEA Marine Environment Research Centre near Lerici, Italy, to create a visualization tool based on its AVS/Express that facilitates the centre's study of coastal marine ecosystem biodiversity. (Images from the project can be seen at www.avs.com/news/072301-ENEA.html) AVS/Express enables rapid, object-oriented development of interactive scientific and technical data visualizations for Digital, HP, IBM, SGI, Sun and Windows systems.
A diver prepares the site under study and films the area. Next, the application guides him through selection and filtering of significant images from the film, selection of objects to be reconstructed as 3-D models, camera calibration and position computations, and reconstruction of the structures under investigation. The user can then measure the model, compare it to others, and extract images and VRML models of the reconstruction for publication in print or on the Web.
"It is important to understand processes that promote diversification of coastal marine biotopes," explains ENEA biologist Silvia Cocito, "and this can be done by studying biogenic carbonate buildups. Their presence and growth is directly related to promotion and enhancement of biodiversity. Unfortunately, those studies have only marginally benefited by recent advances in technology, and often they need repeated biological sampling followed by long and complex laboratory analysis."
The need to perform repeated measurements using environmentally friendly, nondestructive techniques led the team to consider underwater photography, which has been mainly used as a descriptive method, explains project-leader Sergio Sgorbini. But in this project it is used as input to a 3-D model reconstruction of the biological structures to be studied.
AVS and ENEA have a long tradition of collaboration. This project is ENEA's first, however, to involve the technique of 3-D reconstruction.