Forget goggles — WSU has a projector-based VR cave that you can experience without headgear

Love virtual reality, but hate wearing those clunky goggles on your face? Not to worry: Wichita State University has your back. The organization recently completed a new installment dubbed “The Cave” — an enormous floor-to-ceiling virtual reality tunnel that allows designers to create giant mock-ups of their concepts and then experience what it’s like to walk through them — all without strapping a screen to their face.

“The WSU Cave is a 4-sided immersive visualization system,” Jeff Fisher, WSU’s virtual reality lab manager, tells Digital Trends. “[It] has a 19 foot wide x 10 foot tall front screen, two 10 foot x 10 foot side screens, and a 19 foot x 10 foot floor screen that projected images are displayed on. Our system is considered flexible in the sense that the side walls are hinged, and can be folded out to make a continuous 39 feet x 10 feet wall if needed.”

To achieve the full effect requires 12 Digital Projection Titan LED 3D projectors. The main user’s head is tracked to give a realistic immersive experience by way of an Advanced Realtime Tracking system. The user also carries a “wand” which they can utilize to take measurements, record video, or even annotate the virtual environment.

“Many of our use-cases stem from design, manufacturing and architecture/construction,” Fisher continues. “Imagine a manufacturing company was going to build a new building or assembly line. Any kind of mistakes or imperfections in the design, and delivery of that building will hurt that company’s ROI (return on investment). Thus the ability to virtually walk through and simulate that building helps reduce costs.”

But, as impressive as this all sounds, why not stick to basic headset VR?

“The Cave is useful for a number of reasons compared to head mounted displays (HMDs),” he explains. “Systems like this are meant for collaboration. Typically we have 3-15 people from the client in the Cave at once. Looking at the same thing at the same time [means] they could be in there for 30 minutes or three hours. That would be on the edge of difficult and uncomfortable if it was attempted with HMDs — not to mention you would have to ensure people are not always running into each other.”

Fisher notes that the Cave is also a significantly better option in terms of resolution, optics, field of view, and color quality.

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