Graphics pioneer Don Greenberg on digital twins

Asked about the future of design, Donald Greenberg holds up a model of a human aorta.

“After my son became an intravascular cardiac surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic, he hired one of my students to use CT scans and create 3D digital models of an aortic aneurysm,” the infographic pioneer said in a video interview from his office at Cornell University. .

The models allowed for personalized stents that fit so well that patients could leave the hospital shortly after insertion. This is an example Greenberg gives of how computer graphics are becoming part of every human endeavour.

A whole new chapter

Pushing the boundaries, he creates new tools for an architecture design course based on current capabilities for building realistic 3D worlds and digital twins. It will define a holistic process so that everyone from engineers to city planners can participate in a design.

The tutorial is still in the concept stage, but his passion for it is palpable. “This is my next big project, and I’m very excited about it,” said the computer graphics professor of the work, which is sponsored by NVIDIA.

“NVIDIA is superb in hardware and software algorithms, and for a long time its greatest advantage was how it integrated them,” he said.

Greenberg envisions a design process that is open enough to include city planners concerned with affordable housing, environmental activists concerned with sustainable living, and neighbors who want to know what impact a new structure might have on their access to sunlight. .

“I want to put people from different disciplines in the same hole so they can see things from different perspectives at the same time,” said Greenberg, whose classes have covered the departments of architecture, art, of Computer Science, Engineering and Commerce from Cornell.

Teach with Omniverse

A multidisciplinary approach has fueled Greenberg’s work since 1968, when he began teaching at Cornell’s colleges of engineering and architecture. And it has always been rooted in the latest technologies.

Today, that means inspiring designers and construction experts to step into the virtual worlds built with photorealistic graphics, simulations, and AI in NVIDIA Omniverse.

“Omniverse expands, across multiple domains, the work done with Universal Scene Description, developed by some of the brightest designers at places like Pixar – it’s a superb environment for modern collaboration,” he said.

It’s a capability that could not have existed without the million-dollar advances in computing that Greenberg has witnessed over his 54-year career.

He remembers his excitement in 1979 when he bought a VAX-11/780 minicomputer, his first system capable of one million instructions per second. In one of his many SIGGRAPH talks, he said that designers will one day have personal workstations capable of 100 MIPS.

See the progress of Million-X

The prediction turned out to be almost embarrassingly conservative.

“Now I have a machine that’s 1012 times more powerful than my first computer – I feel like a surfer riding a tidal wave, and that’s one of the reasons I’m still teaching,” said he declared.

Greenberg with some of his students trying out the latest design tools.

A far cry from the system at General Electric’s Visual Simulation Laboratory in Syracuse, New York, where, in the late 1960s, he programmed on punched cards to help create one of the first videos generated solely with light. ‘infographics. The 18-minute animation wowed audiences and took him and 14 of his architecture students two years to create.

NASA used the same GE system to train astronauts to dock the Apollo module with the lunar lander. And the space agency was an early adopter of digital twins, he notes, a fact that saved the lives of the Apollo 13 crew after the system malfunctioned two days into their trip to the moon.

From sketches to digital twins

For Greenberg, it all comes down to the power of infographics.

“I love to draw, 99% of the intellectual input comes through our eyes and my recent projects are about how to go from a sketch or an idea to a digital twin,” he said.

Among his few regrets, he said he will miss attending SIGGRAPH in person this year.

“It became an academic home for my closest friends and collaborators, a community of mavericks, and the only place where I found creative people with both great imagination and great technical skills, but it is hard to travel at my age,” said the 88-year-old, whose pioneering work continues in front of his computer screen.

“I’m working on a whole bunch of things that I call problem-finding techniques, like trying to model how the retina sees an image – I’m just getting started on that one,” he said. -he declares.


Learn more about Omniverse at SIGGRAPH

Anyone can start working on digital twins with Omniverse by taking a free, self-paced online course at the NVIDIA Deep Learning Institute. And individuals can download Omniverse for free.

Teachers can request early access to the “Graphism & Omniverse” teaching kit. SIGGRAPH participants can participate in a session on “The Metaverse for International Educators” or one of four hands-on training labs on Omniverse.

For more, watch NVIDIA CEO Jensen Huang and others in a special talk on SIGGRAPH on demand.

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