Iowa State To Unveil C6, Upgraded Virtual Reality Room

Iowa State University will unveil next week "C6," a newly upgraded six-sided virtual reality room. The 3-meter by 3 meter C6, part of ISU's Virtual Reality Applications Center, will be able to immerse users in VR experiences enhanced by 100 million pixels of computer-generated imagery and eight channels of high-definition audio.

The new equipment includes a Hewlett-Packard computer cluster with 96 graphics processing units, 24 Sony digital projectors, an eight-channel audio system, and ultrasonic motion-tracking technology. The difference between the original equipment and the updated technology "is like putting on your glasses in the morning," according to James Oliver, the director of C6 and professor of mechanical engineering at ISU.

Oliver is leading a research team that is using C6 to develop a control interface for the U.S. military's next generation of unmanned aerial vehicles. The researchers are building a virtual environment that will enable operators to see the vehicles, the surrounding airspace, and the terrain they're flying over, as well as information from instruments, cameras, radar, and weapons systems.

A key component is a wireless head tracker and wand that smoothes the flow of information between the imagery and the person operating in the 3D environment. The technology, from InterSense Inc., updates C6's visualization software with measurements of the user's viewpoint and enables the user to navigate without jitters through the environment while intuitively interacting with the scene.  "There's a tsunami of information coming toward you, and you have to convey it effectively," said Oliver.

The grand opening of the upgraded facility will take place April 25 to 27, 2007 at ISU's Emerging Technologies Conference 2007.

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About the Author

Paul McCloskey is contributing editor of Syllabus.

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