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First-ever gigapixel conference to be hosted by Carnegie Mellon

Credit: Adelaide Cole/Art Staff Credit: Adelaide Cole/Art Staff

The Fine Foundation and Carnegie Mellon have announced a conference, the first of its kind, aimed to study and discuss gigapixel technology in all scientific fields. But what exactly is a gigapixel?

Often, when people watch an LCD or plasma TV, they assume they’re seeing one full picture when, in fact, they are actually seeing the summation of many small ones called pixels. These extremely small units are the increments of a complete image seen on a television, computer screen, digital photograph, and elsewhere. Separate, they look like nothing more than tiny dots, but when they merge together, they have the ability to form clear, pristine images that can greatly increase viewing satisfaction. A general rule of thumb is the more pixels, the better the picture quality. In recent years, the megapixel, one million pixels, has been the unit most common unit of measurement. Now, researchers are pushing further. Gigapixels (units containing one billion pixels) are the new zenith of clear imagery and are also being developed here at Carnegie Mellon.

Gigapixel images are used in many professional arenas: Visual entertainment designers take advantage of gigapixel-size images to capture the essence of life-like environments, while museum curators use them to better analyze classic paintings and other antique works. Medical professionals will be able to gain a better view of the microscopic aspects of the human body, and physicists will be able to conduct experiments on supercomputers with much greater efficiency. However, despite potential utility, research has failed to fully explore the gigapixel. The Fine International Conference on Gigapixel Imaging for Science aims to discuss more on this topic. It will take place on Nov. 11–13, primarily in the University Center and the Gates Hillman Complex. Events will also take place at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.

The conference will include daily events such as talks, lectures, workshops, and panel discussions. Members of all corners of the scientific community, from geologists and primatologists, to paleontologists and ecologists, will share information and knowledge about the emerging gigapixel field. A keynote lecture will be given by Pete Worden, the director of the NASA Ames Research Center, one of the country’s leaders on satellite missions and the overseer of an $800 million budget in the NASA research department. His lecture will address how gigapixel technology can be used to more effectively educate the public about science. Prominent members of the business community will speak at the conference as well. Keynote lectures from Alan Eustace, senior vice president of engineering at Google, and Mark Bauman, executive vice president of National Geographic Television, will discuss the relevance gigapixels will have in the future of science and innovation.

Carnegie Mellon’s prominent role in organizing this conference regarding innovation is no surprise to many. Golan Levin, an associate professor of art and an organizer of the event, fully believes the university is taking the lead as usual. “Carnegie Mellon’s commitment to interdisciplinary studies takes a lot of forms. What we understand is that technology and culture exist in mutual feedback. By applying our research energies to emerging media, such as gigapixel imaging, we produce dividends in both areas. This conference is one of many outcomes which have sprung from our investment in hybrid disciplines,” said Levin.

Students are also enthusiastic about the upcoming conference and the learning opportunities it will provide to the entire campus community. Students can attend the conference for a reduced price of $100 — a discount of more than half of the general admission price of $250.

“I’m really looking forward to this conference. I think gigapixel imaging is an interesting field and am glad that Carnegie Mellon tries to promote innovation in so many ways,” said Jayanth Muthya, a first-year economics major.

Omer Zach, a first-year computer science major, agreed, highlighting the importance of large-scall imaging as an emerging field. “Gigapixel imaging is the future of digital entertainment. Pretty soon, what we’ll see on TV screens won’t look much different than what we see around us every day. I’m glad CMU is playing a role in this exciting new field,” Zach said.

Those interested in attending the conference are encouraged to register before Oct. 28.