Travelling Without Moving: The Villanova CAVE

Some might say imagination is all you need when you want to transport to another place, but what if you combine your imagination with technology? I think, then, the sky is the limit and this is what the CAVE is about, to have the possibility to explore different places without the need to go further, but right here, at Villanova.

Located in Old Falvey, the CAVE (Automatic Virtual Environment) was inaugurated the past fall with a ceremony leaded by the Rev. Peter M. Donohue. After the opening speeches, several tours were offered to the public along the day to know the background of this project and how it works. I was lucky enough to take part in one of these visits and the experience exceeded my expectations!

The Villanova CAVE features an 18’ by 10’ by 7.5’ high enclosure in which 10 to 15 viewers can view three-dimensional imagery and immersive data displays. It uses immersive video for telepresence applications, as well as computer-generated graphics for the 3D visualization. In simpler words, these features allow to reconstruct  any landscape or graphics in an almost 360 degree experience. The CAVE was developed under the direction of Frank Klassner, PhD, and is supported by a $1.67 million grant from the National Science Foundation. The CAVE will be primarily for educational purposes, but it will also serve as a visualization support tool for a variety of research projects across disciplines.

During the opening tours, the team behind the CAVE displayed images from the Mars surface and a partial reconstruction of the city of Philadelphia, one of their current projects. The team has been taking pictures of every place in the city with special digital cameras that will be put together to create an interactive reconstruction of the city. A recreation of the sixteenth Chapel was also shown, part of a past project that became the stepping stone of this marvelous digital experience.

As Historian, can you imagine the possibilities of the CAVE? I consider this could be a perfect opportunity to combine historical reconstruction, archeological expeditions, and public history projects. The use of the CAVE for historical research purposes could allow engage the audience into a more experiential encounter with the past. If you are interested in any of these topics, stop by Old Falvey when tours are open and experience the power of imagination and technology combined.

To know about how the CAVE works, please read this article.

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