Calit2 Virtual Reality Environment Nominated for First-Ever 'Immy' Awards

San Diego, Oct. 4, 2010  -- Immersive virtual reality has been a cornerstone of Calit2’s research into scientific visualization from the institute’s very beginning almost 10 years ago. The latest validation of that research may be handed out on Oct. 21 in Los Angeles, when Calit2 could win one of the inaugural Immersive Tech Awards, dubbed the ‘Immys’. 

Calit2 Senior Research Scientist Tom DeFanti navigates a virtual replica of Atkinson Hall in the institute's StarCAVE
The awards are the brainchild of ImTech, a non-profit think tank created to promote the development and adoption of immersive technology in the public interest. Specifically, the annual awards will go to best-of-breed technologies in fields such as education, health, the arts and entertainment.

The nominations were announced Sept. 30, after ImTech’s Board of Advisors selected five nominees in each of five categories: Arts and Entertainment (whose nominees include film directors James Cameron and Peter Jackson); Health Sciences; Communication; Interfaces; as well as Research and Education.

The organization has opened up voting to the general public at

Full-scale NexCAVE developed and deployed by Calit2 for Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah University of Science and Technology
Calit2 earned its nomination in the latter category for its development of the StarCAVE 360-degree 3D virtual-reality environment. The five-sided StarCAVE is the highest-resolution, best-contrast passive stereo (and audio) projection surround system. It operates at a combined resolution of roughly 68 million pixels (34 million pixels per eye), distributed over 15 rear-projected wall screens and two down-projected floor screens. On each wall, the screens are stacked three high, with the bottom and top trapezoidal screens tilted inward by 15 degrees – for a feeling of maximum immersion, while reducing the ‘ghosting’ common to many stereo projections.

StarCAVE's superstructure in Calit2's Immersive Visualization Laboratory includes five walls, each made up of three screens with rear projection, and top-down projection onto the VR environment's floor. 
The VR room is also one of the first to forego using battery-powered shutter glasses in favor of lightweight, polarized sun glasses.

“We designed the room to be flexible enough to be useful to scientists across a broad range of disciplines,” said senior research scientist Thomas A. DeFanti, Calit2’s Director of Visualization. “So far we have brought together interdisciplinary teams working in many fields, including art, archaeology, medicine, medical education, hospital planning, structural engineering, as well as computer science and engineering.”

According to DeFanti, who pioneered CAVE VR environments as co-founder of the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Electronic Visualization Laboratory, “the StarCAVE broke new ground with its price tag -- less than $1 million. That reduced the cost to less than three cents per projected stereo pixel for the StarCAVE, and our successor to the StarCAVE has now brought that down to barely one cent per stereo pixel.”

Indeed, Calit2’s newest immersive environment, the NexCAVE, is the first multi-LCD, 3D HDTV passive-stereo VR system, and the first full-scale one that is field deployable.

Calit2’s competitors in the research/education category includes he University of Leicester’s Second World ive Future Teaching (SWIFT) system; University Center of Greenville’s SimHub; Rensselaer Polytechnic’s Virtual Lap Band; and the UC Santa Barbara developer of the Allosphere, located in Calit2’s sister institution, California NanoSystems Institute. 

Media Contacts

 Doug Ramsey, 858-822-5825,

Related Links

Immersive Tech Awards
The StarCAVE: A Third-Generation CAVE and Virtual Reality OptIPortal