Hey, what's that? - WVU's Geo-visualization cave

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WDTV) - Understanding geography concepts with traditional maps can be tricky; how do you fully immerse yourself in something flat and 2-dimensional?

One of the applications in the Cave.

Well at West Virginia University, their geography students have access to a unique visualization tool called the "Cave".

"It's fairly sophisticated technology that allows us to not just portray that information, but to put it in three dimensions and make it stereo enabled to immerse the viewer in that scene," said Dr. Trevor Harris, an Eberly professor of geography at WVU.

Harris continued, "So you're not just looking at a map or an image; we can put you in that map or image as if you were there."

Students use the technology to enhance their learning and research.

"When you have this sense of visualizing your data around you, it's just like 'Wow'," said graduate student Pragya Srivastava.

The state-of-the art technology includes four projectors and four screens. With the help of various applications and 3-D glasses, viewers are able to become fully immersed in a scene.

"Students first take a step back and say 'Wow!', then they'll take a step forward and say 'Cool!'," said Dr. Harris.

Using the Cave, you can put yourself in the streets of Rome, look at under-ground pipelines, walk through historical reconstructions, and even see how new construction will affect a town. They are also able to add smells and sounds to the scene, and have the potential to add touch-vibrations.

"It's so much more than talking in abstract terms or even in terms of 2-D paper maps," Dr. Harris said.

Technology like the Cave allows students to reach outside the limitations of 2-Dimensions so that they can better understand the world around them.

Frank Lafone, a Ph.D. student, said, "Any program that's interested in visualizing the world around them in unique ways...this can really help them do that."