Project Proposed: This project, developing the Next Generation CAVE (NG-CAVE), supports 15 research projects from local institutions. These projects in multiple domains (Astronomy, Astrophysics, Art, Bioengineering, Earth Science, High Performance Computing, Homeland Security, Neuroscience, Rehabilitation, etc.) are poised to use NG-CAVE for their large visualization needs. Just as cyberinfrastructure provides better access to greater volumes and varieties of data, from data storage systems, online instrumentation, and/or major computational resources like the TeraGrid and future Petascale facility, advanced visualization instruments serve as the eyepieces of a telescope or microscope, enabling researchers to view their data in cyberspaces and to better manage the increased scale and complexity of accessing and analyzing the data. NG-CAVE is such an eyepiece, providing researchers with powerful and easy to use information-rich instrumentation in support of cyberinfrastructure-enabled scientific discovery. It provides users with the ability to see 3D content at nearly 106 Megapixels. For the Electronic Visualization Laboratory (EVL) at the institution, NG-CAVE represents the culmination of decades of experience and expertise developing immersive environments, from the room-sized CAVE virtual environment in 1992, to the office-sized ImmersaDesk in 1994, to the GeoWall in 2000, and the more recent ultra-high-resolution LamdaVision tiled-display wall and autostereoscopic Varrier-tiled-display wall. Each new generation of visualization instrumentation has provided scientific communities with one or more advanced features (higher resolution, unencumbered stereoscopic viewing, multi-Gigabit connectivity, and intuitive user interfaces), better coupling worldwide scientific virtual organizations, and better integrating scientific workplaces with globally distributed cyberinfrastructure. NG-CAVE provides an alternative approach to constructing CAVEs by using new near-seamless flat LCD technology augmented with micropolarization, rather than traditional projection technologies. The net effect is a new CAVE that has 3D acuity to match human vision, can be scaled near-seamless to even greater resolution, is affordable compared to projection-based approaches, requires little maintenance, can be used for both 2D and 3D stereoscopic viewing, and can support multiple simultaneous viewers. The instrument also opens new opportunities in computer science research at the intersection of large-scale data visualization, human computer interaction, virtual reality, and high-speed networking, Broader Impacts: This project provides state-of-the-art equipment, opportunities, and supervision to enhance undergraduate and graduate research and education. The new NG-CAVE supports 10 classes in Computer Science, Art and Design, and Biomedical Science departments. It provides scientific communities with highly integrated virtual-reality collaboration environments; it enables working with industry to commercialize new technologies for the advancement of science and engineering and to continue ongoing partnerships with many of the world's best domain scientists and computer scientists in academia and industry, who readily become early adopters of new instrumentation and who provide students with summer internships and jobs upon graduation. Thus, this instrument enables US to maintain its leadership position in high performance computing and contributes in the advancement of complex global issues (e.g., environment, health, homeland security, economy, etc.), which, in turn, benefit society as a whole.

Project Report

The CAVE2(TM) Hybrid Reality Environment, developed by the Electronic Visualization Laboratory (EVL) at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), is a new type of 'digital lens' -- a high-resolution computer display in which people can study phenomena too large, too small, too dangerous, too complex, or too distant to truly understand well. CAVE2 is a virtual reality display, providing people with an alternate reality -- immersing them in three-dimensional (3D) worlds inside cyberspace and letting them intuitively interact with the data, change size and perspective, make observations -- and ultimately gain insight and knowledge. In addition, CAVE2 enables both 2D and 3D datasets to be juxtaposed, creating hybrid information spaces to assist knowledge workers make sense of today's increasingly large and heterogeneous datasets. Imagine being larger than a six-story building, being smaller than a molecule, standing inside train tracks to observe distortion as high-speed trains roar past, seeing neurons firing in the brain, or traveling to Mars. And, while exploring these cyberworlds of visual information, imagine accessing related data and documentation, whether diagrams, formulas, spreadsheets, or research documents. This is no longer science fiction -- with the CAVE2, it's science fact. INTELLECTUAL MERIT. Today, most professions rely on computers to generate, capture, filter, analyze and visualize data. Natural phenomena from global weather systems to chemical reactions at the atomic level can be simulated inside supercomputers, generating massive amounts of scientific data. Conversely, phenomena from particle accelerators to nuclear reactors to earthquakes are instrumented with sensors, capturing data at ever-increasing resolution. These troves of data are invaluable to scientists as they explore the raw information and evidence needed for new insights and discoveries. However, making those insights is an ever more complicated task, as the scale and complexity of data continue to grow at unprecedented rates. Researchers from diverse disciplines, such as art, astronomy, cultural heritage, bioengineering, earth science, neuroscience, nursing, physics, psychiatry, rehabilitation, and structural engineering, are already using the CAVE2. It has application to many industries, government research laboratories and museums that utilize visual information technologies, such as aerospace, architecture, automotive design, agricultural engineering, climate modeling, energy, manufacturing, medicine, and pharmaceutical. BROADER IMPACT. CAVE2 will enhance undergraduate and graduate research and education. It is already enabling UIC to work with domain scientists and computer scientists who are early adopters of this new instrumentation, and is providing UIC students with unprecedented opportunities to use, support, design, develop and deploy advanced technologies while "immersing" themselves in various application domains, producing demonstrable results -- such that UIC partners are more productive and UIC students gain the skills necessary to get jobs upon graduation. UIC has worked with two companies -- Planar Systems, Inc. and Mechdyne Corporation -- to develop new flat-panel display technology and to commercialize CAVE2, respectively – which will advance all of science and engineering. CAVE2 will accelerate basic research and product development for industries, schools and research labs that invest in the technology, enabling the U.S. to maintain its competitiveness in the global marketplace and its leadership in high-performance computing. This benefits the Nation, and society as a whole.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Computer and Network Systems (CNS)
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Rita V. Rodriguez
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University of Illinois at Chicago
United States
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