Virtual-Reality Designer Greg Dawe Joins Calit2

5.30.2005 – Greg Dawe, the principal design engineer of virtual-reality systems at the Electronic Visualization Laboratory (EVL) at the University of Illinois at Chicago, has moved to UCSD to advise on, design, and build such systems and other visualization technologies at Calit2.

Greg Dawe
Greg Dawe

Working with colleagues Tom DeFanti and Dan Sandin at EVL, Dawe is known for his contributions to the CAVE™ Virtual Reality Theater and its derivatives, the ImmersaDesk™, and PARIS™. The CAVE is a multi-screen, projection-based, virtual-reality system, and the ImmersaDesk is a single-screen, drafting table-style device. Both are commercial products sold by Fakespace Systems (formerly Pyramid Systems Inc.).

PARIS stands for Personal-scale, Augmented-Reality Immersive System. What’s unique about it is that it integrates the sense of touch into the projected immersive experience.

Dawe also did the mechanical design for and assembled the Varrier™ auto-stereographic display, working with Sandin, Tom Peterka, Todd Margolis (now working for the Center for Research in Computing & the Arts at UCSD), Jason Leigh (EVL), Javier Girardo (EVL), and DeFanti. The Varrier is an immersive, interactive system that provides all the features of virtual reality without the need for special glasses or wired trackers.

Most recently, Dawe assembled a 55-panel tiled display (5 panels tall x 11 panels wide) at EVL. This display will be duplicated at the Calit2 UCSD division. Dawe has also been working with Falko Kuester at the UCI division to build the 55-panel HIPerWall, a display incorporating Apple’s new 30” cinema LCD panels.

Says Sandin, “It is clear to me that the VR displays created by EVL would never have been successful at serving a large community of artists, engineers, and scientists without the design contributions of Greg Dawe.”

Dawe working on PARIS
Greg Dawe (left) working on PARIS

One of Dawe’s first assignments at Calit2 is to design and build a six-wall CAVE planned for installation on the ground floor of the UCSD Calit2 building. (The building is slated for occupancy later this summer.) This CAVE will be located in the immersive visualization room, itself a 30’ cube. The room is interesting in its own right in that it’s one of the largest specialized spaces of its kind -- and not something typically found on a university campus.

“Seeing is believing,” says Dawe, “and the CAVE’s presentation of viewer-centered-perspective stereo imagery is the next best thing to being there.”

Dawe with DeFanti is also advising Calit2 division directors Ramesh Rao and Albert Yee and Calit2 building managers Tim Beach (UCSD) and Gregory Gallardo (UCI) on visualization and related capabilities they should consider implementing, particularly to support collaborations between the two facilities.

Dawe has also been tapped to be the chair of the Facilities Design Committee for iGRID, a several-day, biannual “extreme networking” conference to advance science and international collaboration. (iGRID, planned for September 26-30, 2005, will be the first large event held in the UCSD building and a “warm up” for the building dedication October 28.)

Dawe’s unique background mixes mastery in electronics, optics, video technology, material fabrication, computers, and software, complemented by a Florida building contractor’s license acquired in the early 1990s.

Says DeFanti, another new recruit to Calit2 and Dawe’s former boss at EVL, “Rarely do you find someone, like Greg, who not only designs but can actually build systems to spec. He is a designer, an engineer, and a builder.” Dawe started at EVL as a student employee during his undergraduate years, then returned 12 years ago when DeFanti presented him with the opportunity to become manager of system services.

Dawe holds a BFA in design from the University of Illinois at Chicago and an MFA in video art from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, working under Phil Morton, the legendary video artist. Prior to EVL, Dawe was vice president of Space Craft, Inc., a general contracting firm that specialized in restoration and adaptive reuse of historic buildings in the Chicago area.

The CAVE, ImmersaDesk, PARIS, and Varrier are trademarks of the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.