Page N1.2 . 26 July 2000                     
ArchitectureWeek - News Department



New Virtual Reality Theater Supports Architectural Research


In addition, Iowa State will continue to operate its existing VR facility, the C2, and will link the two facilities and explore distributed virtual reality. "Distributed VR is the future," Cruz-Neira said. "It will allow researchers in two or more different facilities, which could be located in different places anywhere in the world, to share their experiences and help come to solutions on tough engineering problems."

A variety of VR applications are already in use at VRAC.

Library of Significant Historical Buildings. A virtual library provides an immersive environment for walking through and seeing the inside of famous and historic buildings in their original or intended form and structure. The library displays buildings representing major historical periods from Egyptian to contemporary and from Western to Asian. These buildings will be used as course material for undergraduate architectural history and design classes. The new visual tool will provide an interactive environment for perceiving architecture that is not otherwise easily accessible to students.

Virtual Architecture Design Tool. The VADeT is an immersive environment for interactive architectural design. This tool will enhance the conventional method of sketching a design concept on paper, and it will stimulate thinking by enabling direct exploration of the design as it is being developed. This new approach to architectural design presents designers with operation selection menus to create and modify architectural primitives. Users interact with a three-button six-degree-of-freedom wand. The current editing features include shape placement, orientation, scale, color, texture, copy, cut, paste, and group operations. VADeT also allows for user navigation, model scaling, and animation of the design.

The Maze. This application demonstrates the photo-realistic visualization of an architectural model. It incorporates, in real-time, effects such as animation, lighting, and reflection that commonly are only possible in frame-by-frame rendering. The Maze's 4.43 megabyte database is made up of 31,588 triangles and is accompanied by 15.2 MB of textures and 30.1 MB of sound. Because of this, a Silicon Graphics Power Onyx is required to obtain desirable frame rates.

Fori Romani Simulacrum. This simulation allows the user to explore the Roman Forum as it would have appeared during the time of the Roman Republic. Not only is the user able to maneuver through the 3D virtual world, but he or she can also manipulate virtual time to study the evolution of the Forum from its paludal origins to its monumental zenith as the social and political center of ancient Rome.

Interactive Structural Analysis. This work applies virtual reality techniques to the interactive stress analysis of an industrial example problem. NURBS-based free form deformation, finite element analysis, sensitivity analysis, collision detection, and virtual reality combine to create the interactive environment. In real-time, designers can view and modify the part shape, evaluate the resulting stresses, and check for interference of the new part shape and surrounding parts. These methods are implemented using a surround screen virtual environment, where the part of interest and surrounding geometry are displayed together using stereo projection to provide a 3D view of the assembly.

The interdisciplinary facility for collaboration research and distributed VR is located in the university's college of engineering. it will not only push the boundaries of VR technology, it will also turn it into a much more useful engineering and architectural design tool.

Project Credits

A Virtual Library of Significant Historical Buildings: Dr. Chiu-Shui Chan, Dr. Carolina Cruz-Neira, Dr. John Maves, Timothy Griepp, Shane Wirth, Terry Welsh, Hamlin Krewson, Ben Meyer

Virtual Architecture Design Tool: Dr. Chiu-Shui Chan, Dr. Carolina Cruz-Neira, Lews C. Hill II

The Maze: Jeremy Eccles and Milk Truk, an ISU student group interested in the fine arts and Christianity.

Fori Romani Simulacrum: Dr. Carolina Cruz-Neira, Dr. James S. Ruebel (Foreign Languages and Literatures Dept., Ball State University), Christopher J. Johanson (UCLA Classics Dept.)

Interactive Structural Analysis: Dr. Judy Vance, Mike Ryken, Tsung-Pin Yeh


ArchWeek Photo

An application based on Octopus software from ISU's VRAC allows users from remote locations to design and investigate problems while working together in virtual space.
Photo: ISU Photo Service

ArchWeek Photo

The Virtual Architectural Design Tool presents designers with operation selection menus to create and modify architectural primitives.
Image: VRAC

ArchWeek Photo

This application demonstrates the photorealistic visualization of an architectural model, complete with real-time animation, lighting, and reflection.
Image: VRAC

ArchWeek Photo

Fori Romani Simulacrum allows the user to explore the Roman Forum as it would have appeared during the time of the Roman Republic.
Image: VRAC

ArchWeek Photo

The Interactive Structural Analysis tool applies virtual reality techniques to the user-guided stress analysis of an industrial example problem.
Image: VRAC


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