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CAVE2 immerses scientists and engineers in their research – literally!

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Posted August 20, 2013

With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), computer scientists at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) are pushing science fiction closer to reality with a wraparound virtual world in which a researcher wearing 3-D glasses can take a walk through a human brain, fly over the surface of Mars and more!

A team of neurosurgeons from the College of Medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) recently stepped into CAVE2--a next-generation, large-scale, virtual environment--to solve a vexing problem that presented itself in the arteries of the brain of a real patient. The method they used could someday benefit hundreds of thousands of Americans who fall victim to brain aneurysms and strokes, the third leading cause of death in the United States. Andreas Linninger is a professor of bioengineering and lead researcher of a project that measures and models blood flow in the brains of patients with stroke. For years, he and neurosurgeons had used laptop and desktop computers to evaluate patient-specific images. But because of the limited image spatial-resolution of even the best-quality laptop and desktop computers, there was something the neurosurgeons couldn't see. That is, until they stepped into CAVE2. "We had been looking at computer models of a particular patient's brain for several months," said Linninger, "but within five minutes of putting the model into the CAVE2, the chief endovascologist said we had connected certain arteries in a way that was inconsistent with anatomy." With that revelation, their model could be corrected. Read more in this news release. Credit: Lance Long for Electronic Visualization Laboratory, University of Illinois at Chicago

A team of neurosurgeons from the College of Medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) recently stepped into CAVE2–a next-generation, large-scale, virtual environment–to solve a vexing problem that presented itself in the arteries of the brain of a real patient. The method they used could someday benefit hundreds of thousands of Americans who fall victim to brain aneurysms and strokes, the third leading cause of death in the United States. Credit: Lance Long for Electronic Visualization Laboratory, University of Illinois at Chicago

The system, known as CAVE2, has an 8-foot-high screen that encircles the viewer by 320 degrees. A panorama of images springs from 72 stereoscopic liquid crystal display panels, conveying a dizzying sense of being able to touch what’s not really there.

For the Electronic Visualization Laboratory (EVL) at UIC, the CAVE2, also known as the Next-Generation CAVE (NG-CAVE), represents the culmination of decades of experience and expertise developing both immersive environments and scalable-resolution tiled display walls–from the room-sized CAVE virtual environment in 1992, to the office-sized ImmersaDesk in 1994, to the GeoWall in 2000, and the more recent, ultra-high-resolution LamdaVision tiled-display wall and autostereoscopic Varrier-tiled-display wall.

Each new generation of visualization instrumentation has provided scientific communities with one or more advanced features (higher resolution, unencumbered stereoscopic viewing, multi-gigabit connectivity and intuitive user interfaces), in addition to better coupling worldwide scientific virtual organizations, and better integrating scientific workplaces with globally distributed cyberinfrastructure.

The CAVE2 is the culmination of EVL’s 20-plus years of expertise in virtual-reality and tiled display walls, creating a hybrid reality environment that can simultaneously display both 2-D and 3-D stereoscopic information. The CAVE2 is constructed using near-seamless, passive-stereo, LCD displays rather than traditional projectors.

The net effect is a new CAVE2 that has a visual acuity to match human vision, can be scaled to even greater resolution, is affordable–compared to projection-based approaches–requires little maintenance, can be fully immersive or can display both 2-D and 3-D information using EVL-developed software called SAGE (Scalable Adaptive Graphics Environment), and is a true collaborative space that can support multiple viewers. The instrument also opens new opportunities in computer science research at the intersection of large-scale data visualization, human computer interaction, virtual reality and high-speed networking. CAVE2 data is provided by:

  • American Bridge Company and Fluor Enterprises
  • Argonne National Laboratory
  • European Space Agency
  • Montana State University
  • NASA
  • Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
  • Stone Aerospace
  • University of California, San Diego, Calit2
  • University of Illinois at Chicago
  • University of Massachusetts, Amherst
  • University of Southern California

Source: NSF

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