Interactive Visualization of Terascale Data in the Browser: Fact or Fiction?
Will Usher, Valerio Pascucci
View presentation: 2020-10-25T18:00:00Z GMT-0600 Change your timezone on the schedule page
Information visualization applications have become ubiquitous, in no small part thanks to the ease of wide distribution and deployment to users enabled by the web browser. Scientific visualization applications, relying on native code libraries and parallel processing, have been less suited to such widespread distribution, as browsers do not provide the required libraries or compute capabilities. In this paper, we revisit this gap in visualization technologies and explore how new web technologies, WebAssembly and WebGPU, can be used to deploy powerful visualization solutions for large-scale scientific data in the browser. In particular, we evaluate the programming effort required to bring scientific visualization applications to the browser through these technologies and assess their competitiveness against classic native solutions. As a main example, we present a new GPU-driven isosurface extraction method for block-compressed data sets, that is suitable for interactive isosurface computation on large volumes in resource-constrained environments, such as the browser. We conclude that web browsers are on the verge of becoming a competitive platform for even the most demanding scientific visualization tasks, such as interactive visualization of isosurfaces from a 1TB DNS simulation. We call on researchers and developers to consider investing in a community software stack to ease use of these upcoming browser features to bring accessible scientific visualization to the browser.