Scientists Use 3D World to Visualize Crucial Data (Video)

First Posted: Feb 20, 2013 11:46 AM EST

Virtual reality may provide more benefits for research than we may have first thought. Computer scientists at the University of Illinois Chicago have created a wraparound virtual world where a researcher wearing 3D glasses can explore scenarios that they might not otherwise be able to experience.

The system is known as CAVE2, and is an 8-foot-high wraparound screen that encircles the viewer 320 degrees. Using 3D glasses and a controller called a "wand," researchers can watch the images that appear from 72 stereoscopic liquid display panels. So far, the computer scientists have created scenarios where users can fly over Mars or take a tour of the brain as they examine blood vessels, according to Fox News. Both scenarios are created from actual data collected from NASA and a real patient, respectively.

The original technology for this 3D virtual world was created in the early 1990s. Dubbed Cave Automatic Virtual Environment (CAVE), the technology was able to perform similar feats to the one seen today. Researchers, though, have given CAVE2 a few upgrades. The newest rendition has a higher resolution.

So what could this system potentially do for researchers? It could potentially allow automobile developers to "drive" their cars before making them, or allow architects explore their buildings before they're actually built. It could even allow weather researchers to explore the inside of a hurricane and allow them to more accurately predict landfalls. In addition, it could give doctors a new tool to better examine and understand the human body, and possibly allow them to better prepare for surgeries.

It's unlikely that this system will be widely used, though. Because of its size and its expense, the CAVE2 probably won't be seen in your area any time soon. However, the system is still an amazing tool that people could use to interact and collaborate.

Want to see a video about how this room works? Check it out below, courtesy of the Electronic Visualization Laboratory, originally appearing here.

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