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    New Virtual Reality Theater Supports Architectural Research

    by ArchitectureWeek

    Architecture students at Iowa State University (ISU) can walk into a magical environment and take on seemingly super powers. They can explore the architecture of the Roman Empire, sculpt architectural forms with their hands, and test structures in the process of design.

    All this in a new theater, called the C6, which opened at ISU's Virtual Reality Applications Center (VRAC) last month. Stereo sound and computer-generated images on all four walls, the ceiling, and the floor immerse users in the imaginary environment.

    Besides being one the first six-sided VR facilities, the 10-foot (3-meter) cube is unique in that it uses wireless systems to connect interaction tools (wands, gloves, etc.) to the computers, giving users of C6 an unprecedented level of freedom within its walls. Current technologies have limited visual fields and cables that restrict user movement.

    "By going wireless, we can provide full motion so you are really immersed in data," says Carolina Cruz-Neira, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at ISU and associate director of VRAC. "When you are in there you will forget which wall is the door. You will not realize you are in a virtual environment."

    High resolution color images surround the user via six, rear-projected high intensity projectors. Four wall projectors provide images directly on the surfaces. The ceiling and floor projectors bounce images off mirrors before reaching the surface.

    C6 uses Silicon Graphics Onyx2 computers running on special software to create simulations, produce sounds, track feedback, and generate images. The high performance computer system can process more than 14 billion instructions every second. It can produce crisp, bright, and realistic images that respond to human interaction. Users will share virtual worlds while experiencing perspectives unique to their location and vantage point.

     

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    ArchWeek Photo

    Iowa State University's new C6 virtual reality theater is one of the few that supports completely surrounding images and wireless interaction devices.
    Photo: ISU Photo Service

    ArchWeek Photo

    A virtual library provides an immersive environment for viewing the inside of famous and historic buildings worldwide.
    Image: VRAC

     

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