NexCAVE interactive visualization system aids University research


The King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) and University of California San Diego (UCSD) Special Partnership in Visualization last year developed a 21-panel virtual reality (VR) system called NexCAVE, but what exactly can it do?

The NexCAVE is a scalable, interactive 3-D visualization environment made of HDTV micro-polarized JVC LCD flat-screens forming an arch-shaped section of a sphere.

The NexCAVE advances VR in two ways over projector based CAVEs. Projectors are inherently hard to align and keep aligned. The NexCAVE panels’ left- and right-eye images are perfectly aligned, thus the eye fatigue from imperfect alignment in a classic CAVE is significantly reduced. Researchers would like to do a study to compare both methods.

The active display technology of LCDs allows the NexCAVE to be installed in normally lit rooms. Traditional CAVE systems require darkened surroundings to maintain quality interaction environments. The NexCAVE has excellent contrast, brightness, and low ghosting, even with fluorescent lights. This allows the NexCAVE to be installed in more settings.

Each column of JVC displays is a separate module with the system expanded by adding columns. The control computers are connected via standard 10-gigabit networking. Across the top of the system is an ART TrackPack4 (infrared camera) system tracking the users' positions and movements. Users wear passive stereo glasses that let each eye see a different image from the same screen, creating a virtual three-dimensional environment.

Combining real-time graphics and PC audio, the NexCAVE includes a 5.1 Meyer Sound system. The NexCAVE is connected to the KAUST Internet allowing the University’s researchers to collaborate with colleagues worldwide.

The NexCAVE’s necessary display tilting is physically achieved by slightly overlapping the screens (see diagram). This works better than one might expect and, in spite of borders, is not disruptive to viewing 3D scenes. If an image is blocked by a border, the viewer moves to look around the border, as one would through a window with millions.

The NexCAVE system is well suited for faculty and students to review and manipulate 3D data of all kinds. KAUST students and faculty are using the NexCAVE for development.