CAVE^H^H^H^H Viscube Installed

Our CAVE, err, Viscube (we aren’t supposed to use the ‘C’ word around here) was installed last week.  This is a 4-wall immersive environment developed by our friends at Visbox.  The installation happened just in time for our important Advisory Council meeting which gave me a whole day and a half to get the machine setup with working demos.  No stress there! I need a vacation!

Cave environments are nothing new, nor are any of us in ETLab strangers to them. There are several nice things about our Viscube that weren’t available in older Caves:

  • Passive Stereo: I hate, hate, hate, I mean HATE active stereo shutter glasses.  I don’t care what rate they sync at, they make me nauseous in minutes.   Passive glasses I can stare through all day.  Even better, we are not using polarization, but instead using glasses from Infitech which are quick slick (although expensive. ~$250/glasses)
  • Single machine setup: That’s right, an 8-core machine with 16 gigs of RAM and 4 Quadro FX 4700, each with dual output.  This let’s us power 4 screens (front, left, right, and floor) with a single machine.  This certainly makes programming easier as we don’t have to worry about shared memory or communication between machines.  Everything could be run in a single thread, although we may as well take advantage of our 8 cores.

I’m excited to finally have a cave environment here.  We have several stereo single wall displays, but you don’t get the immersion out of those that you can get in a cave setup.  It’ll be fun to play with, and I have a few ideas for some projects I want to develop on it.

Virtual Reality…Simulated Reality.. VR.  We’ve been talking about this for decades, and where are we now?  Where’s my holodeck?  Where’s my virtual vacation? If you ask me, Virtual Reality is not the future.  We (the computer graphics industry) have been talking about VR for decades.  Has anything improved?  Our pictures are a lot prettier than they used to be, but haptics devices are still mostly useless (except for a very few specific uses), mobility is limited in a cave environment, and caves only work for a single viewer.  It’s still impossible to simulate the entire environment in the computer, and there’s no ability to have real, physical objects in the cave. So what then?  If we can’t do VR, what’s next?

AR – Augmented Reality is where it’s at.  We’ve started to see simple AR applications.  We see them every time we watch a football game, or here in Alabama, NASCAR, we’ve even seen them on the iphone.  AR consists of mixing virtual into the real.  In the NFL the yellow first down line drawn across the field is a great example of AR.  But we are still in infancy, and until we get better at image processing (which will happen soon!), AR is limited in its applications.  This is where my research interests really lie, and I’m exciting about being part of of this emerging field.  I’ll have lots of posts in the future about my AR research.  For now you can see a simple example of AR, and another project where we are using it practially.