I think it’s safe to say that the digitized worlds of 3-D and virtual reality will soon know no bounds, no longer so easily associated with such lame affairs as Jaws 3-D and The Lawnmower Man. Instead, the future will be more along the lines of Star Trek‘s holodeck. We are in unparalleled times. If only these could also be the times where I got shit like this for a birthday present.
The University of Illinois at Chicago’s Electronic Visualization Laboratory (EVL) has unveiled the CAVE2, a 320-degree, eight-foot-tall cylindrical wall of 72 passive stereoscopic LCD screens that output 7,360 x 4,912 pixels in 3-D, complete with 20 ambisonic speakers placed all across the massive display, which is 24 feet across in diameter. Users wear a set of 3-D glasses that have attachments which are constantly tracked by the CAVE2’s sensors, and when combined with a similarly outfitted wand — a Wiimote with spores, essentially — users can walk through immersive worlds of high-definition bliss. Check the video below for a rehashing of the specs and some visual beauty.
A few months ago, we covered the Reality Deck, a very similar cubed contraption, and the goals for the CAVE2 seem to be the same: Medical research, such as virtual practice surgeries, as well as breaking down and being able to literally walk through all the parts of the body, theoretically down to DNA levels; architecture and design, where virtual blueprints could eradicate previously unforeseen problems; and data crunching, which the 36 high-performance computers powering the CAVE2 are more than capable of handling, and with sensational visual representation. I’d love to look a gift horse in his three-dimensional mouth and call this thing out for not having a roof or a floor, or even wrapping all the way around, but I’m what you call “still too fucking impressed to care.”
“It’s fantastic to come to work,” says EVL director Jason Leigh. “Every day is like getting to live a science fiction dream. To do science in this kind of environment is absolutely amazing.”
If you thought this story might end without another Star Trek reference, you were wrong. Research assistant Arthur Nishimoto has spent part of his spare time over the last two years programming the schematics of the Starship Enterprise into the CAVE2’s system, allowing him to now be able to walk around the thing whenever he wants. And if that’s not a lesson in “hard work brings rewards,” I don’t know what is.