Ant colony 3-D visualization
garners attention at SIGGRAPH


Visitors to one of the world’s premier computer graphics and interactive techniques conferences saw pioneering work developed at the Texas A&M Department of Visualization.

“Atta Texana Leafcutting Ant Colony: a View Underground,” created by visualization professors Carol LaFayette and Fred Parke, put viewers at SIGGRAPH 2008 in Los Angeles inside an immersive, three-dimensional representation of an ant colony.

The SIGGRAPH convention is an annual event that drew almost 30,000 attendees August 11-15 at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Artists, research scientists, gaming experts, developers, filmmakers, students and academics from 87 countries attended.

A British Broadcasting Corporation reporter at the conference filed a story about the 3-D project that can be viewed online at

The ant colony project was one of 30 selected by SIGGRAPH from hundreds of submissions to be on display at its New Tech Demos section.

“They were presentations by companies, entrepreneurs, and other research bodies and schools that use technology as an investigative tool,” said LaFayette, who spearheaded Texas A&M’s project.

Viewers of the “Atta Texana” project donned stereo-vision glasses to view five screens arranged in a semicircle while using a hand-held controller to navigate through the virtual ant colony.

LaFayette said the display caught the attention of many SIGGRAPH attendees.

“We had someone from Disney Imagineering who is working to help conserve part of Vero Beach in Florida. They want to conserve turtle nests by displacing the eggs from one place to another so that they’ll survive. They wanted to know if ground-penetrating radar could be used to find turtle eggs under the sand,” she said.

“We also had someone from IMAX theaters come through and ask if we ever thought about displaying something like this in an IMAX theater,” she added.

LaFayette said the immersive visualization system could also be used to showcase visualization student work.

“One of the real motivations I have is to generate venues for students, and we are trying to get a museum to install this immersive system in some form, and then have the students work with researchers to rotate out content every couple of years,” she said.

“In one way, it’s a proof of concept of an infrastructure for a creative pipeline to the museum industry. We got in touch with a few museums that were sort of interested, but we haven’t yet confirmed anything,” she said.

LaFayette said the system is a good example of what the Department of Visualization is all about.

“It is a really good blend of art and science,” she said. “It’s beautiful abstract art to look at the data structure. It’s also a map, numeric in its origin; it really came together as a hybrid or art and science, and that’s what our program is trying to do.”

For much more on the project, visit the VizLab website.

- August 27, 2008 -

- the end -


Carol LaFayette

Fred Parke

Please click on images for slideshow

Update your contact info and share your news!

The College of Architecture strives to keep up with former students and share their successes in the archone. newsletter. Please take a moment to update your contact information and tell us what you've been up to. Click Here
bottom page borders