RESEARCH NEWS

Data cave immerses scientists in the stars

11 June 2008



Scientists have access to a 3D visualisation Data Cave designed and installed by Mechdyne.

The Atlantic Computational Excellence Network (ACEnet) Data Cave, which projects stereoscopic 3D imagery onto three wall surfaces and the floor, allows researchers to step inside and interact with computer-generated images in ways that can provide new insight and understanding. 

At the grand opening, representatives from the nine ACEnet member universities and other VIPs experienced the immersive visualisation for complex scientific concepts, such as an astrophysicists’ calculations of how light and heat swirl away from an exploding star. 

‘As a scientific tool, the Data Cave saves us a lot of time and improves our ability to interpret the results of extremely complex calculations,’ said Dr Robert Deupree, director of the ICA and the ACEnet principal investigator. ‘Conventional visualisation of a star, for example, would create two-dimensional slices that do not really convey useful information. With immersive visualisation, we can better see the 3D turbulence and other characteristics of a star, and we can see the effect of modifications in the data or in our calculations much more quickly.’

The Data Cave display system uses four Mechdyne Beacon SX+ projectors to generate a 1,450 x 1,050 pixel image on each of four screens measuring 10 ft. X 7.5 ft. The image is seen in stereo by users wearing LCD active shutter glasses. An integrated real time motion tracking system monitors the position of a primary user, maintaining an optimal viewing perspective and allowing interaction with the images using handheld control devices.

 

Since the Data Cave is based on the Mechdyne Flex display system design, it also can be easily configured as a 30ft long flat screen or as an angled ‘immersive theatre’ in addition to the cubic Cave format. The tracking system covers the entire 30ft width of the flat screen, three times the usual tracked space of immersive environments. This flexibility allows ACEnet scientists, such as geophysicists, to display data in formats commonly used in such fields as oil exploration and development. 

‘St Mary’s University recently expanded its Science Building to include a purpose-built room for the ACEnet Data Cave, providing a state of the art, flexible working space,’ said Chris Clover, CEO of Mechdyne Corporation. ‘This system accommodates a wide range of research and scientific collaboration and we are proud to have had the opportunity to be a part of the program’s success.’

Mechdyne worked closely with Sun Microsystems, which as ACEnet’s computing systems partner provided four Ultra 40 Workstations as the graphics engines for the display system. Mechdyne also collaborated with Iowa State University, a pioneer in using Cave-type display systems, to provide 3D visualisation software for the ACEnet Data Cave.

Related internet links

ACEnet