Monday, June 25
We finished up with the shaders section of the deeper dive. (Reminder: shaders are programs for the graphical processing unit.) This mostly consisted of following a slideshow and copying code, but I happened to have enough baseline knowledge to figure out how everything works. When we reached the end of the class, I took it upon myself to write a shader that renders only horizontal slices of an object without modifying its geometry.
This view is a bit confusing, so I’ll break it down. There are two objects here. The grayscale teapot is in the front with thin slices. Behind it (and partially inside) is a pill-shaped thing. The thin light blue/gray lines show the shape of the object being passed to the shader (called a “mesh”). It’s up to the shader to figure out which pixels need to be what color to make the 3D object appear on the 2D screen. Sadly, if you haven’t written a shader, you have no reference for how much vector math is involved in this process.
In the afternoon class, we got a second, more in-depth tour of the C6: the 96-node, $6 million graphics cluster and VR room. If you can’t picture how 24 projectors can project onto 6 walls, this picture might help:
We made a small test scene in Unity using the plugin that allows the C6 master node to distribute the rendering and simulation to all 96 nodes. It was really neat to make a virtual world and then stand in it, all within in a few minutes (but I’m used to the concept from standard commodity VR systems)!
Tuesday, June 26
Today we talked about how to review a paper and practiced as a group. The DataViz group (well, we’re a pair now) wrote the “research area paragraph” which describes what our goal is and also how to measure success. It’s funny to me that we didn’t even know what we were researching until week 5. I understand that research is about solving open-ended problems, but this is more like getting to the airport before you know where you’re buying tickets to. It’s fundamentally different than that standard research uncertainty that Dr. Winer is so proud that we don’t have much experience with yet.
Speaking of Dr. Winer, (the associate director at VRAC and one of the two professors in charge of us,) we heard his career story over lunch. I’m still not used to hearing these full-career stories. It’s interesting how thoroughly different lives can be. I know that isn’t very profound, but that’s alright.
Wednesday, June 27
Today my deeper dive group worked on a mathematically-complex shader that doesn’t lend itself well to a succinct explanation. The end effect is that you can make an object appear to be cut along any arbitrary plane without actually affecting the geometry of the object. I also messed around a bit with some shaders that render 2D and 3D fractals and I rendered these:
I had a bad headache for most of the day. Made a few calls, including talking to my parents for the last time before my mom heads to Geneva for an internship at the World Health Organization. My dad will leave once his Visa gets approved; he’s staying behind to attend the wedding that I’m flying back for a weekend to sing at. I took a nap after the calls, but I just woke up nauseous instead of feeling better. I read a bit while I waited for that to clear (and it mostly did) before going to bed again for the night.