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After this brochure was published, faster R4400 CPUs at 200MHz and 250MHz were released, the R8000 chip set at 75MHz and 90MHz, the R10000 CPU, InfiniteReality graphics, etc. See other available product pages for details of these later CPUs and graphics subsystems, eg. the InfiniteReality Technical Report covers the use of IR in Onyx systems.

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Onyx RealityEngine2

Host Integrated Computer Image Generator

[Click to download larger version]

Onyx RealityEngine2 establishes a new level of price/performance and scalability in low cost image generation systems. Combining high performance, exceptional image quality, a flexible development environment, highly extensible graphics and computational subsystems. Onyx RealityEngine2 sets a new metric for affordable quality image generation and host computing.

Onyx RealityEngine2 is the next in a line of an evolving class of image generation systems from Silicon Graphics the Host Integrated Computer Image Generator (HI-CIG). Combining dramatic multiprocessor computational capability and extensive multichannel visual output. Onyx RealityEngine2 integrates the key simulation functions into a single homogeneous high performance environment.

(image courtesy of Marconi Simulation)


This generation of systems has a truly scalable architecture with the capability of being configured in a deskside or rack environment, both supporting multichannel output capability. The system is configurable with up to six high-resolution (1280 x 1024) channels or up to a potential of 18 channels at lower resolution, providing up to 7.8 million displayable output pixels. In addition to the visual capabilities, Onyx RealityEngine2 utilizes the latest CPU technology, the MIPS R4400 RISC processor, in a multiprocessor environment (up to 24 simultaneously). Silicon Graphics systems heritage has enabled extremely high internal and external data flow system bandwidth resulting in unparalleled combined compute and graphics performance and industry leading I/O performance.

Image Quality

Onyx RealityEngine2 supports full screen, sub-sampled anti-aliasing at high frame rates. Combining this with a 32-bit Z-buffer ensures complete hidden surface removal. This not only produces exceptional image quality, but enables unrestricted database design and freedom of moving model control. Directional light shading and full color smooth shading enable textured scenes of remarkable realism. Image quality is exceptional for low light and sensor simulation with provision of up to 12-bit per component color capability.


This new system family is designed to meet the challenging performance requirements of image generation. The highly optimized architecture is tuned to generate high-quality, anti-aliased, textured images at a selectable range of fixed-frame rates in a multichannel configuration. In conjunction with IRIS Performer, a simulation software development environment, Onyx RealityEngine2 implements object processing, load control, and performance streamlining. Onyx RealityEngine2 generates up to 9000 textured antialiased polygons per pipeline [per frame] at 30 Hz and up to a total of 27,000 polygons per system [per frame] at 30Hz, resulting in scenes of high complexity and detail, new to this class of visual system.

Texture Capabilities

Onyx RealityEngine2 is a system designed to excel in texture capability. A standard 4MB of on-line texture memory enables up to 380 simultaneous on-line 128 x 128 mip-mapped textures. The texture memory can be re-mapped under software control and supports a maximum 1024 x 1024 texel map size. All polygons in the scene can be mapped with full color, photographic, (R,G,B,A) texture with up to 12-bits per component, providing exceptional image clarity. The system is tuned to implement trilinear mip-mapping texture antialiasing filtering at peak performance, this ensures maximum texture stability and accuracy regardless of eyepoint orientation, and polygon shape. Enhanced visual cues and texture clarity are implemented with the use of special texture functions DetailTexture and SharpTexture.

Exceptional image quality, real-time performance, multiprocessor host capability and an open architecture makes Onyx RealityEngine2 the cost effective choice for low-cost image generation applications.

[Click to download larger version] The Open Architecture Approach

Image generators are typically designed to perform to a rigid specification. It is natural, however, for requirements to change over time. This presents a need to evolve the system beyond the initial installation. With conventional image generation systems this can often be difficult. Onyx RealityEngine2 provides the solution. With a hardware subsystem and software development environment designed for image generation, Onyx RealityEngine2 provides access to real-time visual system technology that is fully extensible.

(image using IRIS Performer)

[Click to download larger version] Highly Flexible Environment

Onyx RealityEngine2 is highly configurable. Output display channels can be organized to efficiently meet visual requirements, minimizing cost and maximizing performance. The system is configurable not only prior to but also following installation. The system can support up to a potential of 18 independent channels and is capable of driving up to 7.8 million anti-aliased, textured, displayable pixels from a single chassis. Output line rates are redefinable enabling a wide choice of output display device. The computational subsystem is similarly flexible, providing from two to 24 high-performance RISC processors in a symmetric multi-processing environment.

(image courtesy of Gemini Technology)

Host Functionality

Onyx RealityEngine2 is not only an image generator but also addresses the host functions of the simulation. The multi-processor RISC CPU subsystem and real-time operating system offer a computation environment that can address the vehicle dynamics, data acquisition and system control functions normally handled by a separate computer. The HI-CIG approach minimizes integration, support and connectivity issues ensuring a more cost effective approach and reducing system integration time.

A wide variety of third-party simulation packages are available for Onyx RealityEngine2 enabling rapid, flexible solutions to simulation applications.

[Click to download larger version] The Software Advantage

IRIS Performer provides high-performance, rapid development, rich functionality and future portability. It consists of a rapid rendering library, image generation environment and a number of sample simulation applications. IRIS Performer maximizes throughput using multiprocessor task partitioning, efficient database traversal and highly optimized graphics rendering. It provides high performance, rapid development, rich functionality and future portability. It provides deterministic, real-time control of the visual system without the constraints imposed by traditionally rigid image generation system design.

(image courtesy of Marconi Simulation)

[Click to download larger version] Special Effects Development and Control

Special effects have become an increasingly important element of visual systems. IRIS Performer provides the ability to access and define a range of unique special effects. Conventionally many visual effects can be difficult to implement due to their reliance on underlying hardware or microcode. Now IRIS Performer provides easy access to functions such as point lights and weather effects. Because IRIS Performer permits access to the full functionality of the graphics subsystem it is also possible to integrate additional custom developed effects for specific requirements.

(image courtesy of Software Systems, Inc.)

Database Modeling - In Control of Your Own World

IRIS Performer loads databases in a predefined format for real-time processing and display. IRIS Performer can be configured to access multiple database formats simultaneously (MultiGen database format is supported as standard). Using third party software, modeling can be performed on the same system as the image generation, making RealityEngine2 very cost efficient. This enables the user to develop and modify database files quickly, immediately seeing the changes reflected in the visual system, reducing development time and cost.

[Click to download larger version]


Flight Simulation

The ability to configure low cost multi-channel configurations with high update rates, quality anti-aliased point lights, weather and atmospheric capabilities, makes Onyx an attractive choice for low cost flight simulation image generator applications.

[Click to download larger version]

Maritime Applications

RealityEngine2 is highly cost effective for multi-channel configurations making it ideal for marine simulation. The system's ability to handle complex special effects also enables the implementation of complex but important cues such as sea state simulation.

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Space Applications

In space, unique special effects are required, such as reflection mapping, accurate lighting and shadows. Onyx provides these with the ability to extend the system capabilities to address future requirements.

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Ground Based Simulation

Low cost, high performance, configurability and inter-system network capabilities make Onyx ideal for ground based team training environments. Silicon Graphics also provides systems for solutions in the host, modeling, planning and debrief applications.

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Driving Simulation

Extensive texture capability and dynamic scene management makes Onyx suitable for driving simulation applications. Reconfigurable line rates and multiple channel capability also make the installation highly flexible.

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Virtual Reality

As simulation is used more extensively for interactive real-time visualization across the range of market segments, Onyx provides the realism, interactivity, and price-performance that is required to address this blend of visualization and simulation.


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3D Texture

This advanced and highly flexible feature can be used to address a series of complex special effects. Texel values are defined in a 3 dimensional coordinate system. Textures are then extracted from this volume by defining a 3D plane that intersects it. The resulting texture that is applied to the surface is thus the intersection between the volume and the plane. The orientation of the plane is completely user definable.

One example of how 3D Texture could be used is in implementing an animated texture sequence. The texture volume would be defined as a series of consecutive images, making up the animation. The volume is then intersected in the direction of the arrow, extracting each animation frame in sequence. Automatic blending between consecutive images ensures smooth animation.

Detail Texture

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In order to enhance speed and distance cues when close to a surface, DetailTexture automatically blends in a predefined texture to existing textured polygons. This secondary texture is user defined and can be full color. An extension to this function is SharpTexture, that automatically sharpens the texture edges when the eyepoint is close-to, providing greatly improved image definition without the use of higher resolution textures.

Projected Texture

[Click to download larger version] [Click to download larger version] [Click to download larger version]

Onyx RealityEngine2 supports 3D texture projection. The ability to project textures in 3D space enables a number of useful special effects: Steerable spotlights of definable lobe shape, shadow projection onto 3D surfaces and environmental reflection onto textured surfaces are just a few examples.


Product Scope

Visual Output

Visual Priority

Surface Capacity

Texture Capability

Image Quality

Scene Management

Mission Functions

Special Effects

Moving Models

Weather/Environmental Effects

Transport Delay

In synchronous mode:

Video Capabilities


Software Tools

Light Points

Host Functionality

Sensor Simulation


For more information please call:

U.S. 1(800) 800-7441
Europe (41) 22-798.75.25
North Pacific (81) 3-5420.71.10

South Pacific (61) 2-879.95.00
Latin America 1(415) 390.58.28
Canada 1(416) 625-4747

Corporate Office

2011 N. Shoreline Boulevard
Mountain View, CA 94043
(415) 960-1980

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Copyright 1993 Silicon Graphics, Inc. All rights reserved. Silicon Graphics, IRIS and the Silicon Graphics logo are registered trademarks, and RealityEngine, Onyx, and IRIS Performer are trademarks of Silicon Graphics, Inc. MIPS is a registered trademark and R4400 is a trademark of MIPS Technologies, Inc. MultiGen is a registered trademark of Software Systems Inc. Specifications are subject to change without notice.

Databases shown in images generated using MultiGen from Software Systems Inc.

Typed up by Ian Mapleson (mapleson@gamers.org) on 22/Nov/98
Original Document Code: VISSIM-ONYX-DS (7/93)

Ian's SGI Depot: FOR SALE! SGI Systems, Parts, Spares and Upgrades

(check my current auctions!)
[WhatsNew] [P.I.] [Indigo] [Indy] [O2] [Indigo2] [Crimson] [Challenge] [Onyx] [Octane] [Origin] [Onyx2]
[Future Technology Research Index] [SGI Tech/Advice Index] [Nintendo64 Tech Info Index]