Auckland Uni buys supercomputer for new projects

Auckland University is developing software to let Eastman Kodak Co. outlets build an animated face from a photograph, which can read e-mail to recipients.

The project is part of the work the university does with Boston-based company LifeFX Networks Inc. The university helps develop LifeFX's Facemail application, which creates virtual characters (including a tiger) to read email out to recipients. Last year the university's technology marketing arm, UniServices, signed a NZ$25 million (US$10 million) deal for a share of Nasdaq-listed LifeFX.

The university has bought a NZ$2 million SGI Onyx 3400 supercomputer for the project and other research into modeling the human body.

The Onyx 3400 replaces an SGI Origin 2000 bought three years ago. It has 16 processors, 16G bytes of RAM and is the first SGI box sold in New Zealand with an Infinite Reality III graphics engine, or G-brick.

Project spokesman Peter Hunter says researchers will be able to use the machine for such applications as animating a large and extremely high-resolution model of, say, a beating heart or breathing lung.

US company Physiome Science uses the university's heart models for drug research.

The university will also use the supercomputer in conjunction with a recently acquired magnetic resource imaging scanning machine. It plans to use scans with measurements of muscle activation and bone properties to calculate the forces at work inside the knee.

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