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Supercomputer super stars

By Zhou Wa (China Daily)

15:28, October 10, 2012

Two staff members collect data in a computer room containing Tianhe-1A, China's fastest supercomputer, in Tianjin, on Aug 28, 2012. (Xinhua Photo)

If a Chinese supercomputer pops up in the credits at the end of a Hollywood film, don't be surprised, for China's Tianhe-1A, one of the world fastest supercomputers, is being used by a company in Tianjin to help create an animated film for DreamWorks.

"With the supercomputer's help, we've improved the rendering capability of DreamWorks," said Hu Yong, chairman of Cool Cartoon in Tianjin.

Hu said his company is now developing a data transmission system that will allow it to send rendered animations to its clients in North America faster in the future.

Tianhe-1A was developed to boost China's economic development and improve its scientific research capabilities, said Meng Xiangfei, head of the application department with the National Supercomputer Center in Tianjin, where Tianhe-1A is installed.

With the support of Tianhe-1A, a Chinese geographic information provider started the country's first official 3D map Tianditu - a Chinese version of Google Earth - which required an enormous number of calculations and data storage to create.

Compared with traditional two-dimensional maps, three-dimensional maps are more true to life, which offers users a more direct understanding of a real location, said Wang Jian, whose company provides a 3D map Tianditu of Tianjin.

"For example, if a house located in a block with interlaced streets catches fire, it is easier for firefighters to pinpoint the house's location and determine the quickest route to the fire using a 3D map."

In this way, the map not only makes firefighters' jobs easier, it can also help save people's lives, Wang added.

Wang said his team is now busy developing software to run on supercomputers that will improve the quality of the 3D map.

"The 3D map is really useful to me, because I find it difficult to relate ordinary maps to real streets. But the 3D map makes it easy," said Li Jing, who previously avoided driving in unfamiliar streets as she found it difficult to follow maps.

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