This is one of many 3-D images projected on the GeoWall – one of the features available in the newly launched Media Union 3D Lab, showcased at last Friday’s open house.

Director Klaus-Peter Beier said the lab concentrates on 3-D geometry, specifically in the areas of virtual reality, scientific visualization and imaging technology.

“It is often difficult to understand three-dimensional environments because they are so complex. The lab makes it easier to understand with the help of stereo and full-scale applications,” Beier said.

One popular facet of the lab is the Virtual Reality CAVE, which allows for interaction with various situations on a full-scale level.

The CAVE uses an enclosed room that accommodates up to six people at once. Shield glasses with sensors on them combined with more sensors on the four projection surfaces create an immersing experience.

Many demos have been produced for use in the CAVE including, a Sept. 11 scenario for disaster preparation and virtual simulations for football, airport and emergency medical preparation.

After leaving one of the CAVE’s demos, prospective Rackham student Lauren Luen said she enjoyed the experience.

“That was supercool! That was definitely my favorite part about the lab and I’ve never seen anything like it.”

The lab also features an extensive collection of other resources.

A 3-D printing system allows users to create starch models of a wide variety of objects, including automotive and mechanical parts, molds for casting applications and molecular structures.

Another feature, the Render Farm, drastically reduces image-rendering time. An animation which once took 96 hours to create on one computer now takes 4.6 hours to create on the Render Farm program.

Quicktime VR Station provides another advancement in computer animation by taking equally-spaced pictures of an object from many different angles as opposed to stop-motion recording.

The 3-D lab occupies part of the first floor of the Media Union. Last Friday’s open house marked the completion of the project, which started in September 2002, and allowed the public to explore the services available.

Beier noted that while 3-D labs can be found in few other places in the United States, they are usually closed to the public.

The University’s 3-D lab is unique in that it is open to students, faculty and staff. Frequent lab access is obtained through an application form.

But lab access is automatically granted to all students using the lab for a course. A few courses currently make use of the lab, including two engineering classes and two art design classes. More classes are likely to integrate the 3-D lab into their curriculums in the future.

Free instructional workshops in 3-D modeling and animation as well as CAVE programming are also available for interested users.

Michigan State University sophomore Darko Filipi encouraged the campus community to take advantage of the new technology.

“This place is pretty sweet and the presentation is pretty credible.” He added, “It’s great that this place is open to the University community. If I were a student here, I would definitely make use of it.”

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