Artistic Devices and Photorealism in Scientific Visualization

Marc Levoy, Stanford Computer Science

Seminar on People, Computers, and Design
Stanford University April 29, 1992


The scientific and medical communities are deeply divided over the merit of incorporating artistic devices and photorealism into data visualizations. Techniques such as metallic shading, shadow-casting, surface and solid texturing, and selective defocusing are common in hand-drawn illustrations, but their use in computer-mediated data exploration is not widely accepted. I will argue that these techniques, if properly used, improve spatial comprehension and hence the utility of computer-generated visualizations. To illustrate my argument, I will describe the application of volume rendering - a technique for displaying sampled 3D data - to two problems: 1) interpretation of molecular electron density maps; and 2) planning of radiotherapy for cancer patients.


Marc Levoy is an assistant professor of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering at Stanford University. He received a B. Architecture in 1976 from Cornell University, an M.S. in 1978 from Cornell University, and a Ph.D. in Computer Science in 1989 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He was principal developer of the Hanna-Barbera Computer Animation System and served as its director from 1980 through 1982. His research interests include computer animation, realistic image synthesis, algorithms for visualizing multidimensional sampled data, high-performance graphics architectures, parallel algorithms, and exotic user interface technologies.


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