Virtual Reality Makes Us “Cave”

HMDs lead to group immersive virtual environments.

In the movie theater we look through passive 3D glasses to give us depth perception or stereopsis. The 3D effect helps to immerse us in the experience that the director intends for us to sense and feel. The director uses cinematography, camera angles, cuts, pans and zoom to direct our focus and engage our emotions. When executed well there is a strong sense of presence in the experience.

Similarly, when wearing a Head Mounted Display (HMD) stereopsis is used to immerse us in a computer generated virtual environment. Within the HMD the viewer is free to look around the virtual environment (often a video game) without being controlled by a “movie director”. The HMD experience can be a fantastic and immersive experience for the individual.

Notice that neither of these 3D experiences facilitates face-to-face collaboration or interaction with others.  In fact, there is no ability to see facial expression or nod of the head to acknowledge comprehension due to the obstructed view caused by the HMD.

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The recent availability of HMDs, fueled by the arrival of prime market movers, has begun to raise awareness of where HMDs work well (gaming) and where limitations hamper the effectiveness of an HMD solution.  In the Commercial Integrator (CI) world users are beginning to look for small group 3D collaboration for application such as a virtual walk-through of a new building using Building Information Modeling (BIM) tools like AutoDesk Revit™.  In this setting users rely on face-to-face interaction with colleagues for collaboration and thus HMDs are not an option.  The natural question becomes, is it possible to create a 3D virtual environment without HMDs?

The solution is found in immersive display solutions that fill the Field Of View (FOV) of the group of users.  Solutions of this type have traditionally been referred to as Cave Automated Virtual Environments or CAVEs.  CAVE technology provides a “viewer-centered” experience where the users are free to look around the 3D scene at will with no predefined path or script.

Historically this immersive display technology required clusters of computers and special software.  Fortunately, recent developments with GPU technology coupled with investments driven by the HMDs VR craze has resulted in exciting new solutions for group viewing of 3D contents in immersive, wide FOV planar and dome screened environments. Scalable provides technology that enables these emerging solutions.

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