aixCAVE at RWTH Aachen University

  Foto of the five-sided immersive virtual reality environment aixCAVE Virtual Reality Group aixCAVE - the five-sided immersive virtual reality environment

The aixCAVE is a five-sided immersive virtual reality environment at the IT Center RWTH Aachen University. It has been constructed and installed in August 2012 by the Barco N.V. in collaboration with the Virtual Reality Group. (This video gives you a small impression of the construction.) With a size of more than 5 x 5 m2 for the rear floor projection, the system is not only the largest one worldwide, but raises the standards with respect to projection quality: by a sophisticated combination of high resolution, high brightness, brightness uniformity, specially coated screens, elaborate mechanical construction, and active stereo technology, a high level of immersion and an illusion of presence are achieved. The aixCAVE will be profitably and extensively used by numerous RWTH Aachen University institutes and cooperation partners from academia and industry.

The stereoscopic projection is achieved via four digital projectors per wall screen and eight digital projectors for the floor screen. This results in a 360 degree view, leading to a nearly perfect immersion and facilitating natural navigation within the virtual environment. The projectors themselves have a resolution of 1920x1200 pixels and thus feature sharp, detailed representations, particularly for the interactive analysis of complex technical and physical processes.

The 24 HD-DLP projectors are driven by a 24-node visualization cluster with 48 NVIDIA GPUs of the latest generation. Each node contains 2 x Intel Xeon Westmere CPUs (6 Cores at 2.7GHz) and 24 GB RAM. The nodes have 2 x NVIDIA Quadro 6000 GPUs per slave node, one on master node. The nodes are connected by a high performance Infiniband QDR (quad data rate) network. The GPU cluster is part of the RWTH Bull HPC system.

 

Since 2015 an acoustic system has been commissioned that is used for sound reproduction in the user space. It supports - in combination with the visual projection - a multimodal presentation of the virtual environment. For that purpose, 21 loudspeaker have been installed at the ceiling. A small impression of the construction is offered by our Video

In addition, passive room acoustic optimization with large absorbers reduce the reverberation time inside the aixCAVE and prohibit break-in noise, i.e. from the cooling fans of the projectors outside. A total of 22 microphones pick up the acoustic signals inside the user space and enable for communication and interaction with the reproduction system. Maintenance of the acoustic system as well as further development of the software architecture is carried out in close collaboration with the Institute of Technical Acoustics.

 

General characteristics aixCAVE

  • Installation in August 2012 by Barco N.V.
  • Five screens, rear projection on 4 walls and 1 floor with 24 HD active stereo projectors
  • Walls: 5.25m x 3.30m, 4 projectors each, acrylic screens with special coating for highest brightness uniformity
  • Floor: 5.25m x 5.25m, 8 projectors, acrylic screens with special coating on glass, 6.5cm thickness
  • Projectors: Barco Galaxy NW12 (three-chip DLP, resolution W-UXGA 1920x1200, 12000 ANSI lumen, passive to active stereo conversion at 120Hz)
  • Edge blending for seamless alignment of projectors on each screen
  • Pixel distance: 1.5mm
  • Radio-based active stereo NVIDIA 3DVision Pro shuttering at 120Hz
  • ART IR-optical tracking with 8 cameras
  • Power consumption: ~67 kWatt
  • Automatic sliding door

General characteristics acoustic system

Software

The virtual reality toolkit ViSTA (Virtual Reality for Scientific Technical Applications) enables the development of applications for the whole range of VR input and output devices in general and the aixCAVE in particular.