The VRAC’s C6 is the world’s highest resolution, fully immersive virtual environment. Residing in the center atrium of Howe Hall, the facility’s exterior is shaped like a silver cyclone. Inside the C6 is a room that is 10 feet by 10 feet by 10 feet in which all four walls, the floor and the ceiling, are projection screens illuminated from outside by high-resolution, interactive computer-generated stereoscopic images that provide an experience of total immersion in a virtual environment.
The C6 displays over 16.7 million pixels (4096×4096) on each of its six surfaces – totaling more than 100M pixels. A customized image generator cluster, comprised of 48 dual-cpu/dual-gpu workstations, sends images to 24 Sony SRX-S105 digital cinema projectors, providing an intensely detailed, high-resolution, immersive experience for researchers and other participants. In addition, audio immersion is possible through the upgraded 8.1 channel surround sound audio system. The C6 debuted in 2000 and received a multi-million dollar upgrade in 2008. The original and upgraded C6 was engineered and implemented by Mechdyne Corporation.
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The C6 is a 10x10x10 ft. room in which images are projected on all four walls, the ceiling, and the floor. It is located in the atrium of Howe Hall. In the C6, several participants can explore and interact with a virtual world simultaneously, sharing the experience.
Creating the Illusion
Advanced software and hardware are integrated to create virtual worlds that deliver interactive, fully immersive experiences. Speakers are mounted around the C6, giving participants the added sense of immersion through surround and localized sound.
Seeing In 3D
The computers render images for the right eye and left eye which are displayed in very rapid succession on the C6 viewing surfaces. Shutter glasses enable 3D viewing by ensuring that the user’s left eye and right eye see only the appropriate image.
Participants interact with virtual worlds in the C6 using gloves, wands, and a variety of haptic devices. These devices are linked to the system via wireless communications, leaving the C6 space clear of anything that detracts from total immersion.
The Glass-Bottom Room
A single 2,000 lb., 2-3/4-inch thick piece of Plexiglas allows images from the bottom projector to appear on the floor of C6.
High-resolution color images are projected onto four walls, the ceiling, and the floor. The positioning of these projectors accounts for the exterior shape of the C6. Images from the projectors are coordinated to create a seamless real-time graphic display in the C6.
The C6 is built on a modular architecture, in which each screen and its associated technology is a separate unit. One of the screens is mounted on a pneumatically actuated frame to allow for access to the C6.
The very colorful part on the exterior of the C6 enclosure is a very thin micro-embossed film resembling a CD-ROM or holographic material. This film is sandwiched between clear acrylic to give it stability and also let it float off the primary surface of the C6 enclosure. These panels reflect light in a very active manner creating colorful reflections around the space surrounding the C6. The reflections colorfully interact with an individual’s movement around this central space in Howe Hall in a very unusual manner also responsively to the viewer’s place and spatial relationships around them. Direct light on this film reflects in a very prismatic way, where it is split into a red, green, blue and other parts of the visual spectrum, which further activates the space around the C6.