Giving operators the BIG picture

01 April 2006

You’ve heard of operator interface screens, now take a look at this operator interface wall.

Control rooms in the process automation industries have seen increases in the amount of graphical displays for operation and engineering personnel. This has been especially true with the advent of great new hardware and graphical software technologies, such as flat screen displays which fit much more comfortably on the desktops.

Projection systems have been used in a few locations, and they can give operators an even bigger picture, but they have the drawback of taking up a lot of floor space, especially for rear projection systems. A Norwegian company named 3D Perception ( says it has the answer for control rooms: a compact digital projection system that will give wall images of any size, curved or flat, with images from multiple projectors smoothly combined so that the viewer is not aware of the edges between screens.

The company has a background of supplying projection and projection related equipment to the simulation and entertainment industries and has developed its own digital technology for geometrical correction of images when projected onto curved—even spherical—screens. The technology also makes it possible to seamlessly combine images from two or more projectors, and to adjust both the colour balance and
gamma in order to obtain smooth and realistic images.

Seeing an opportunity to provide the technology to the process automation industries, 3D Perception has been working with ABB and the Norwegian oil and gas company STATOIL to produce large projection systems for control rooms. The product is called ‘ControlWall.’

With the projectors mounted either on the ceiling or on a rack above the screen, very little space is taken up for the system and the projection is done in such a way that unless someone stands very near the screen, a shadow will not be cast. Also, an increasing viewing angle will not reduce the visibility of the image.

A curved surface, the company maintains, makes it easier for the operators to get an overview and by manipulating the digital technology of standard PC graphical interface cards (DVI or VGA), images can not only be adjusted for the curved surface, the overlap zone between the projectors where projected images must be blended together are handled in a special way. Using digital technology, one image gradually fades
over until a different projector fully takes over the projection, so it is nearly impossible for the eye to see where one image ends and the next one begins. This is called ‘edge blended projection.’ The technology also allows for multiple computer and video sources to be integrated into a single seamless screen.

Projecting onto curved surfaces is done by a process called ‘warping.’ all pixels from the computer video graphic cards have to be reshaped to fit the projection area. The calculations are performed in real-time in the Compact ControlWall hardware. Warping technology also makes it possible for multiple projectors to project on the same area of the screen, which makes it possible to install a fully redundant system. ControlWall has no limitation in the number of projectors or their mounting. Resolution is up to 1920 x 1200 pixels.

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