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John E. Stone, William R. Sherman, and Klaus Schulten. Immersive molecular visualization with omnidirectional stereoscopic ray tracing and remote rendering. 2016 IEEE International Parallel and Distributed Processing Symposium Workshop (IPDPSW), pp. 1048-1057, 2016.

STON2016A Immersive molecular visualization provides the viewer with intuitive perception of complex structures and spatial relationships that are of critical interest to structural biologists. The recent availability of commodity head mounted displays (HMDs) provides a compelling opportunity for widespread adoption of immersive visualization by molecular scientists, but HMDs pose additional challenges due to the need for low-latency, high-frame-rate rendering. State-of-the-art molecular dynamics simulations produce terabytes of data that can be impractical to transfer from remote supercomputers, necessitating routine use of remote visualization. Hardware-accelerated video encoding has profoundly increased frame rates and image resolution for remote visualization, however round-trip network latencies would cause simulator sickness when using HMDs. We present a novel two-phase rendering approach that overcomes network latencies with the combination of omnidirectional stereoscopic progressive ray tracing and high performance rasterization, and its implementation within VMD, a widely used molecular visualization and analysis tool. The new rendering approach enables immersive molecular visualization with rendering techniques such as shadows, ambient occlusion lighting, depth-of-field, and high quality transparency, that are particularly helpful for the study of large biomolecular complexes. We describe ray tracing algorithms that are used to optimize interactivity and quality, and we report key performance metrics of the system. The new techniques can also benefit many other application domains.

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