Stephen Smith's Blog

Musings on Machine Learning…

Archive for the ‘graphics’ Category

Amazing Google Street View

leave a comment »

I remember when SQL Server 7 was nearly ready for release, Microsoft research had a project to make a 1 terabyte database. Their project was to server up satellite images of anywhere on Earth. Basically they had 1 Terabyte of images, so that was their terabyte database. I didn’t think this was a realistic terabyte database since their weren’t that many records, just each one was an image and quite large. Anyway they put the thing up on the web as a beta, and as soon as a few people tried it, the whole thing collapsed under the load.

A year or two later Google launched Google Earth, which basically did the same thing, only more detailed. But Google Earth can easily handle the load of all the people around the world accessing it. Why the difference? Why could Google do this and Microsoft couldn’t? I think the main difference is that Microsoft hosted it on one single SQL Server and had no way to scale it besides beefing up the hardware at great expense. Whereas Google uses a massively distributed database running on many many servers all coordinated and all sharing and balancing the load. Google uses many low cost Linux based servers keeping costs down and performance high.

This week Google released Google StreetView for major Canadian cities including Vancouver, where I live. So I can virtually cruise around Vancouver streets with very good resolution including seeing my house and neighborhood. This is really amazing technology. Rather than just panning around a patchwork of satellite images, we are actually navigating in 3D around the world. Suddenly Google has produced a virtual model of the entire world at quite good photographic quality.

Think about the size of this distributed database with all these photos, plus all the data to allow them to be stitched together into 3D Views that you can navigate through. This is so far beyond Google Earth, it’s really amazing. Is this the first step to having a completely virtual alternate Earth? If you are wearing 3D goggles, will you be able to tell if they are transparent or viewing these images?

I think we are just seeing the first applications of what is possible with these giant distributed databases. I’m really looking forwards to seeing some really amazing and mind blowing applications in the future. The neat thing is that Google is starting to open source this database technology so others can use it. Are SQL databases just dinosaurs waiting to be replaced? What will be able to accomplish in our business/enterprise databases and data warehouses one we start apply and using this technology?

Advertisements

Written by smist08

October 11, 2009 at 12:24 am

Amazing CGI

leave a comment »

I saw District 9 this weekend. Quite a good movie. Memorable CGI generated aliens “the prawns”. Quite an improvement from aliens that are clearly people with lots of makeup and fur suites, quite an improvement over using muppets and other robots/puppets. The aliens appear to move naturally, they have insect like mouth parts that are constantly moving and bodies that clearly an actor couldn’t fit into. Good work to the Vancouver company Imagine Engine that created them. The aliens fit right into the film and are completely realistic.

The I was blown away by the trailed for Cameron’s new movie Avatar which is coming in December. Again huge amounts of CGI creating a truly alien but beautiful planet and creatures. Really amazing how realistic these imagined worlds are becoming.

Even on standard PCs today with relatively inexpensive graphics cards from NVidia or AMD, its amazing the level of realistic graphics you can get in modern computer games. Each frame in the movies mentioned above might take hours to render to get the desired quality, but computer games today aren’t far behind and rendering 30 frames a second on current graphics co-processor cards. These cards often have 1 gig of their own memory and hundreds of parallel processors doing all the 3D calculations.

It looks like with modern movie making technology, truly whatever can be imagined can be created. Currently it might be limited to big budget productions cost $100 million to make. But prices keep coming down, techniques keep getting cheaper. Next we’ll see movies less expensive to produce, we’ll see this technology incorporated into video games. Should be amazing to see the crop of movies that start appearing over the next few years.

Written by smist08

August 24, 2009 at 1:55 am

Posted in graphics

Tagged with , , ,