LibraryCAVE Brings Virtual Reality and Big Data Into the Classroom

January 12, 2018

Professor Nicola Lercari is leading his students on a tour of Palenque, the ancient Mesoamerican city that flourished at the peak of Maya civilization. They’re exploring the altar atop the Temple of the Cross, inspecting it from all angles and scrutinizing every detail.

But they’re not in Mexico. Lercari and his students are on the second floor of the UC Merced Library, standing before a triptych of high-definition monitors, which they view through 3-D glasses. Lercari navigates the first-person, 360-degree panoramic tour using an Xbox controller. Passers-by stop to ask questions.

“It’s a new class,” explains teaching assistant Anais Guillem. “World Heritage 110: 3-D Modeling Cultural Heritage. And this is the LibraryCAVE.”

The LibraryCAVE is a smaller version of UC Merced’s Wide-Area Visualization Environment (WAVE) system, a 20-screen VR multiplex that allows researchers to navigate interactive 3-D renderings of complex structures. The WAVE is a powerful tool that can be used to explore ancient ruins or visualize the inner structure of the brain.

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