Projection based virtual reality systems have become well established in application areas such as computational science, automotive engineering, and chemical exploration. These fields are often favored with large budgets and can afford expensive, advanced displays. VR also has applications for art, cultural heritage, and educational institutions, many of which have much smaller budgets, or are not able to support and maintain high-end graphics workstations. A simpler, more affordable projection based display system would be valuable for these institutions.
Currently, there are about 5 CAVEs and a handful of other virtual reality displays in public museums worldwide. Their popularity with the general public and the economics of throughput mean that relatively large groups are shown short demonstrations. Because of the limited time it is unusual for visitors to interact directly with the experience -- very often a museum worker will navigate and interact for them. We believe that a cheaper system would allow visitors longer, more hands-on, and possibly more intimate experiences of virtual worlds.
This paper describes the construction of a single screen, passive stereo, VR display based on commodity, or otherwise low-cost, components. The display was constructed at the Department of Media Study, of the University at Buffalo, and is being used in teaching new media courses and for art exhibitions. We will identify the requirements that drove various design decisions, and compare the quality of the new display with that of high end systems like a CAVE or ImmersaDesk.