Iowa State University
Iowa Center for Emerging Manufacturing Technology Evaluates the Benefits of Virtual Reality
Known to many in the VR development community, Dr. Carolina Cruz-Neira, Associate Scientist at Iowa State University, heads a team to investigate scalable, high-performance computers, advanced virtual environments, and high-speed network communications using the CAVE and other VR tools. "Our goal is to evaluate the benefits of virtual reality," Dr. Cruz-Neira says. "For example, how much of a level of interaction do you need in a particular project? We cover a spectrum of interests, including architecture, physics, chemistry, and distributed virtual environments. In one project, we're collaborating with the school's statistical department, transforming numbers into their graphic equivalent." The center uses VR to create a multidimensional model of statistical data; Dr. Cruz-Neira reports that they can create as many as seven to 10 dimensional variables of statistics about an event and chart them all at once. The variables include patterns and shapes, clusters of data that can be individually or simultaneously viewed in a virtual environment for analysis. "We are exploring," she says, "the use of volumetric space to develop new ways of understanding graphics in charting statistical information."