For more than 10 years, the Keck Center for Active Visualization in Earth Sciences (KeckCAVES) at University of California Davis, has allowed researchers to build 3-D, interactive models of places they cannot visit in reality.
Now, the virtual reality software used by scientists at the University of California, Davis, to study everything from earthquakes to molecular biology in a 3-D “cave” can run on some off-the-shelf gaming VR headsets.
The VR experience allows a medical researcher to walk around — or go into — a 3-D image of a skull from a patient’s CT scan. A geologist can walk around the landscape of a massive landslide and make precise measurements. A seismologist can watch a sequence of earthquakes and take precise measurements of depth and distance.
These 3-D renderings of data come to life within a Mechdyne CAVE — a commercially available virtual reality system — on the third floor of the UC Davis Earth and Physical Sciences Building. But now researchers are no longer limited to exploring virtual renderings of their data on campus.
“We can now run our software on the gaming headsets,” said Oliver Kreylos, a software developer and research associate for the program. “Nonexperts can set up a full virtual reality system to use our applications the way they were meant to be used.” Currently, the software can run on the HTC Vive headset.