Visualizing Tempe - East Valley Tribune: Tempe

Visualizing Tempe

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Posted: Friday, November 25, 2005 4:55 am | Updated: 9:40 am, Fri Oct 7, 2011.


Don’t go looking for a showing of Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire at Arizona State University’s Decision Theater.

While crews at the theater could create three-dimensional scaled representations of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, scientists and academicians here are more interested in reality and, more specifically, future realities.

Strategic initiatives manager Gary Graf and his team are elbow-deep in creating a computer-generated three-dimensional presentation of Tempe’s evolving downtown. They spent weeks on the first version of their project that takes the viewer on a fly-over of the city’s core. Projects that are now in construction, such as Hayden Ferry Lakeside, pop up against the back-drop of existing buildings as the camera rolls over and around the projects and then drops to the ground, all to a jazzed-up rendition of "Stop, Look and Listen."


• The Drum, 260-degree round theater capable of seating 20.

• Thin, floor-to-ceiling screens show video from seven high-powered synchronized rear projectors. Images roll across the panorama.

• Data, models and presentations pulled from 41 computer servers, with computers powering stereo surround sound, microphones and controllers for presentation leaders.

• Programmers can also control the theater from a sound-proof booth.


In addition to Tempe, the theater’s staff is working with the East Valley Water Forum, using research and historical data to create scenarios and help leaders make plans for the future.

"We’re doing work on water, looking at how much is going to be available in the Valley in the next 20 years. We’re working on urban heat islands. We’re looking at how viruses like West Nile spread through Arizona. We’re training surgeons," Shangraw said.

Shangraw and Graf say the goal of the theater is to be a resource, allowing the skills and expertise of academicians and programmers to benefit the community.


While schematics, engineering plans and maps of approved projects are available, it’s often difficult to imagine a building standing on an empty piece of ground, Graf said.

Under the direction of executive director Rick Shangraw, Graf and others take raw data, such as the exact location of sewer lines, to create three-dimensional interactive models and simulations.

"We can take a building on Tempe Town Lake and say, ‘Let’s move it over here,’ " Shangraw said.

That takes seconds now, but in the past an architect would have had to redraw the building to scale in its new location and present it to leaders days later. In addition to being just plain cool, the theater’s technology saves time, money and helps people make better decisions, Graf said.

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