a dive into virtual reality
While working as an intern at the Center for Documentary Studies (CDS) this summer, I was offered the opportunity to visit the Duke Immersive Virtual Environment, also known as the DiVE. Created in November 2005, it is currently located at the Pratt School of Engineering on the campus of Duke University. Rachael Brady, a Pratt research scientist and adjunct associate professor in the computer science department, oversaw the planning and construction of the DiVE, one of only seven such systems worldwide at the time. She was also the host for my visit and welcomed my CDS colleague, Chris Sims, and I late one afternoon in June.
DiVE is often times described as a six-sided “cave” — a chamber measuring roughly 9.5 feet per side. The four walls, as well as the ceiling and the floor, are used as screens onto which computer graphics are displayed.
En route from CDS to the DiVe, I had absolutely no idea as to what was to come and little did I know that I was actually about to take a dive into virtual reality. Among DiVE’s latest virtual creations, programmed during a recent workshop, are different sites at Duke University, including the Center for Documentary Studies. As I knew the CDS building quite well after working there several weeks, I was anxious to see what it would look like in this virtual world. After I took my shoes off, I entered the “cave” with much anticipation. Professor Brady gave me stereoscopic glasses, which provide depth perception, and a handheld joystick, which is used as a navigational device.
Now inside a fully immersive room, I walked to the front door of CDS without actually being there. After regaining my bearings and recovering from a slight dizzy spell due to the powerful three-dimensional glasses, I was able to open my eyes again and found I was completely surrounded by the familiar walls of CDS. With the help of the joystick I was capable of interacting with this virtual world. I found myself gliding through the front door and flying up all the way to the top of the roof of the East Campus Steam Plant. I also went on a virtual tour of other buildings in the Arts Warehouse District of Duke’s campus as well as the historical sites of the Villa of Livia north of Rome and the medieval city of Oxford, England.
All in all, it was an exciting journey that can’t easily be described. My colleague Chris made some photographs and video of my trip. You can find these below as well as a few screen shots provided by Professor Brady. I look forward to revisiting DiVE and exploring other virtual worlds that DiVE has to offer.
—Kendra McNair-Worley (North Carolina Central University Class of 2010)