WHAT'S BEEN GOING ON?
The list of uses for computer graphic applications is for all practical purposes endless. To appreciate this consider the following examples of typical applications by end users of computer graphics equipment.
At NASA, for example, designers have created computer simulations of the actual flight of experimental aircraft. All aspects of the flight are programmed into the computer. Everything the pilot would see out the window of a real aircraft appears on the crt screen of the computer (Fig. 1-2). Safe at the display console a pilot can try difficult landings knowing that a crash simply means running the program again.
Fig. 1-2. Computer-simulated landing field.
Recently NASA has used computer graphics to perfect the motions of the new Space Shuttle so it can maneuver with an attached telescope. (See Fig. 1-3.)
On the architectural front, computer graphics are used to help design complex building structures on the crt screen. Using special graphics controls the designer can maneuver the positions of the structures anywhere in three-dimensional space, even upside down. Special graphics programs allow the designer to manipulate perspective and scale to show the structure as if it were being viewed from a helicoper. See Fig. 1-4.
Fig. 1-3. Simulating space shuttle with telescope.
How does computer graphics help people care for their health? With new whole body scanners medical investigators are using computer graphics to view the complex parts inside the human body. The computer is fed information from a special scanner that circles around a person lying on a table. Once this information is inside the computer, a graphics “program” constructs a three-dimensional image of any part inside the body on the screen and in full color. (See Fig. 1-5.)
Fig. 1-4. Architectural structures can be moved about.
From the display console the researcher can rotate the image, change its color, and even go inside it and look outwards. Such powerful devices allow researchers to probe the inner mysteries of the human body.
Fig. 1-5. Internal organs may be represented from any viewpoint.
Motion pictures have begun to use some of the fantastic graphics technology. For example, in the movie Star Wars the scene in which the rebel pilots are briefed on the workings of the “Death Star” was done completely on a graphics computer. (There is a rumor circulating that Bally's new home computer uses a graphics language modeled after the one used to make the Death Star scene.)
The poor artist, however, has had little exposure to the capabilities of graphics computers. Only a specialized group of professionals with skills in computers, art, and engineering have had an opportunity to play with computer graphics (Fig. 1-6).
Fig. 1-6. Artists may utilize computer graphics.
Now that personal computers have dropped in price so as to be no more expensive than a good stereo system, thousands of people are discovering the incredible potential that can be had with these devices. Soon we will see computer graphics being used in ways never before possible.
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