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CAVE2

Systems & Tools 31 January 2014 | 3.51am

One of the great things about working at Arup is having the opportunity to work with emerging technologies and to explore the ways in which they might enhance our current design practices. This summer we’ve been fortunate enough to have had access to the brand new CAVE2 at Monash University, a stunning piece of digital technology that brings the designer/analyst much closer to their data through the creation of a wholly-immersive environment.

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Visitors view the CONNECTOME brain model on the Monash University CAVE2™. CONNECTOME image courtesy of Electronic Visualization Laboratory (EVL) & Department of Psychiatry, University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), with permission Photo by Philip Chan, Monash University

CAVE2, successor to the original CAVE, combines extraordinary hardware and software technologies to render complex data and geometry at very high resolution in a physical space that puts the observer right in the middle of the whole experience. Broadly speaking, this is achieved using a cylindrical wall of 3D LCD panels that is 4 screens high and 20 screens around (80 million pixels in total) combined with a 20.1 audio system to provide the acoustic experience.

Arup have brought a team of Monash students into the office through the Industry Team Initiative, an innovative approach to industry collaboration being driven by Professor Frieder Seible and Madeleine McManus at Monash, and so far the results have been fantastic. Our students Andrew, Will and Vijay have been building new hardware and developing software solutions to get our existing projects into the cave so that we might better understand what this technology can do – they’ve managed to capture interest from across the firm and by the end of summer I’m sure we’ll have some great results.

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ARUP project visualisations developed for CAVE2 using openSUSE

We’ve been toying around with different types of immersive technologies (Vizux, Leap Motion, Kinect etc.) for a couple of years now, but CAVE2 really is a whole different world, and getting information into that world requires a quite a bit of hard work. To this end, our team have been getting their hands dirty building an openSuse machine, compiling OmegaLib, osgEarth and VTK libraries; and writing Python scripts to load and manipulate our data. We’ve made some significant steps forward with automating the Revit to CAVE2 workflow, and have been starting to render large point clouds generated by laser scanning (I’m expecting that flying through a massive point cloud data set in 3D will be one of the real show-stoppers).

Our team are in the CAVE2 today to test out some of the work that they’ve been prototyping back at the office. We have until the end of February to continue our CAVE2 development and will post an update around then to let you know what we achieved. A big thank-you goes to all the technical support at Monash University for helping to make this project a success.

Jon Morgan

Melbourne, Australia

“I have always wanted to explore the principles behind the way things work. I began in automotive and aerospace engineering but my work is now in architecture and the design of buildings and urban systems. I’ve always looked for ways to disassemble and re-connect stuff, anything from the purely physical (like push-bikes and computer programs) through to the theoretical (like ideas about economics, people and cities).”

View all posts by: Jon Morgan