M. Abrams
Y.J. Beliveau
D.R. Bevan
J.M. Carroll
W.A. Curtin
R.W. Ehrich
D. Farkas
D.S. Hix
B.M. Kleiner
R.D. Kriz**
C.A. Shaffer
R.C. Williges

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Blacksburg, Virginia 24061

  1. Project Summary
  2. Results from Prior NSF Supported Research
  3. ARI Project Description
  4. Budget

** Principal Contact
* CAVE(tm) is a trademark of Electronic Visualization Laboratory (EVL), University of Illinois

Last Revision August 15, 1996


The objective of this ARI Research Project is to provide access to and training in the use of advanced Virtual Environments (VE) such as the CAVE(tm) that will break barriers in Virginia Tech research and education-research programs funded by NSF and other organizations. As a CAVE(tm) partner with the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), Virginia Tech will focus on human-computer interaction (HCI) development and evaluation with specific applications in simulation-visualization (SV) of complex multidimensional biochemical structures, dislocations in ceramics, and complex 3-D damage patterns observed in fiber-reinforced composite materials. Results of this project will demonstrate how scientists and materials research engineers can benefit from the use of well-designed user interfaces in a CAVE(tm) environment.

The first year's activities will focus on creating a fully functional CAVE(tm) environment with a demonstration project in molecular modeling. The first year will be an acquisition-only activity where Virginia Tech staff will work with the Pyramid Corporation and NCSA's CAVE(tm) technical support staff to install, calibrate, and test the instrument and train Virginia Tech technical support staff and programmers. Because the user interface is the CAVE(tm), a technical support / user interface programing expert is an essential component to successful operation of the CAVE(tm) as an instrument. With new VEs such as the CAVE(tm), there is even more demand to study and evaluate the CAVE(tm) interface from an HCI perspective prior to developing SV tools. This approach places emphasis on HCI development and evaluation before effective SV tools can be designed. Further, engineers and scientists have immediate need for data analysis capabilities; hence, this CAVE(tm) project will be organized in two parts that will proceed in parallel: 1. in collaboration with NCSA, Virginia Tech programmers will convert SV software, already being used extensively by engineers and scientists, into a "ready to go" CAVE(tm) format that originates from the user's desktop workstation, 2. develop and evaluate new user interface metaphors and techniques that can take advantage of unique CAVE(tm) features and capabilities.

The second and third years will focus on training research scientists to use CAVE resources, as well as developing and evaluating appropriate VE user interfaces. The NSF-STC Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP) will be used to train under-represented undergraduate students in the use of CAVE(tm) technology. For the past four years, SURP projects related to SV have allowed under-represented undergraduate students to learn how to use SV as a research tool. One project from SURP'95 created a web module on molecular modeling that is now being used in the undergraduate curriculum. Future SURP CAVE(tm) projects would also be included in NSF-NIE program goals where students experiment with collaborative network tools to investigate a variety of scientific physical phenomena.

These activities will become part of Virginia Tech's and southwest Virginia's future Advanced Communication and Information Technology Center (ACITC), a building scheduled to be completed by the year 2000 and designed to serve on-campus and related regional off-campus information technology programs. Both HCI and SV activities have also been targeted by Virginia Tech in its long term strategic plans to build the ACITC building. In partnership with NCSA the project goal is to focus on development and evaluation of VEs that will benefit scientific applications of interest to both Virginia Tech and NCSA and within the scope of the ACITC program.

2. Results from Prior NSF Supported Research

NSF Science & Technology Center (Research)

Virginia Tech was awarded a five year multi-investigator NSF-funded Science & Technology Center for High Performance Polymeric Adhesives and Composites in 1989 (Grant #DMR 88-09714). The initial grant was extended for an additional five year period in February of 1992, with some restructuring of personnel and programs. The current NSF S&T Center award (Grant # DMR 9120004) is for the period February 1, 1992 to January 31, 1997 and is in the amount of $7,486,000. The Center director is Prof. J. McGrath and there are thirteen co-investigators, all at Virginia Tech. The principal director of the ARI proposal, Prof. Ron Kriz, is also a member of the S&T Center.

The primary research objective of the S&T Center is to achieve an improved level of understanding of high performance polymeric adhesives and composites at the molecular, micromechanical, and interfacial levels and to use this understanding to design and produce material systems with improved levels of performance. In 1991 NSF S&T Center equipment funds were used to purchase workstations and Molecular Simulations Inc. software for the Laboratory for Scientific Visual Analysis. These laboratory resources have been used to facilitate: 1. Prof. Kriz uses SV tools to study the influence of interphase structures on wave propagation in polymer based composites, 2. Prof. Loos uses supercomputers to simulate and graphical workstations to visualize Resin Transfer Molding (RTM) models of composite panels for aerospace applications. Access to advanced visualization tools is necessary for the prediction and interpretation of RTM model results, 3. Prof. Gibson has worked to characterize and understand the role of polymer structure on physical properties by the use of SV tools. With SV he studies crystalline structures of rotaxanes & polyrotaxanes. Although these three applications are included in the proposal as secondary CAVE(tm) applications, they have not been selected as target applications, hence only Prof. Kriz is listed on this proposal as PI.

NSF SUCCEED (Education)

Virginia Tech is also a member of the Southeastern Universities and Colleges Coalition for Engineering EDucation (SUCCEED), funded by NSF under Cooperative Agreement EID-9109853 for the period March 1992 through February 1997. Total NSF funding for SUCCEED is $15M, and there is an additional $15M implementation. The PD of this ARI proposal, R.D. Kriz ($53,697), together with colleagues at Georgia Tech, are presently involved in the project: "Development and Implementation of Interactive Multimedia in Basic Engineering Education Courses." as part of the activities in the Center for Technology and Communication. The Center's goals are: 1. Implement a demonstration of electronic connectivity for education delivery and interaction between (a) SUCCEED institutions, and (b) SUCCEED campuses and community colleges, 2. Demonstrate multimedia technology insertion into teaching/learning situations comprised of four or more engineering courses and one or more pre-university engineering courses.

NSF-NIE (research-education)

Virginia Tech was awarded a three year grant in 1995 on "Leveraging Networks for Collaborative Education in the Blacksburg Electronic Village" at $1,117,000 (Grant #REC9554206) for the period of October 1995 through January 1999. The projects objective is to create a virtual school infrastructure within the Blacksburg Electronic Village and study how students in 8 grade physical science class and high school physics class can benefit by collaboratively evaluating simulations of a variety of scientific phenomena. The project is also developing Web-based MOO (Multi-user domain) tools for a virtual science laboratory with interactive 2D physics simulations that will be designed to increase teaching effectiveness as a training medium from both student's and teachers' perspectives. Professor John M. Carroll is the project director and is CoPI in this proposal.

NSF-RI (infrastructure)

Virginia Tech was awarded a five year grant in 1993 on "Interactive Accessibility: Breaking Barriers to the Power of Computing" at $1,300,000 (Grant #CDA-9303152) for the period of June 1993 through June 1998 to create three new laboratories to conduct Human-Computer Interaction research. Dr. Deborah Hix who is a PI on the NSF-RI proposal, is also a CoPI on this proposal.

References of relevant research publications for the principal investigators of this proposal who are also STC, NIE, and SUCCEED members are included in the biographical citation list for each member in the Appendices.

3. ARI Project Description

a. Research Activities & Background

The objective of this ARI Research Project is to provide access to and training in the use of Virtual Environments (VE) such as a CAVE(tm) that will break barriers in Virginia Tech research and education-research programs funded by NSF and other organizations. As a CAVE(tm) partner with the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), Virginia Tech will focus on human-computer interaction (HCI) development and evaluation. The first year's activities will focus on creating a fully functional CAVE(tm) environment with a demonstration project. The second and third years will focus on training research scientists to use CAVE(tm) resources, as well as developing and evaluating appropriate VE user interfaces. The NSF-STC Summer Undergraduate Research Program will be used to train under-represented undergraduate students in the use of CAVE(tm) technology. These activities will become part of Virginia Tech's and southwest Virginia's future Advanced Communication and Information Technology Center, a building scheduled to be completed by the year 2000 and designed to serve on-campus and related regional off-campus information technology programs.


Many faculty at Virginia Tech are now routinely using simulation and visualization (SV) in their research and educational programs. This activity has been facilitated in part by creation of a Laboratory for Scientific Visual Analysis, a National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) Academic Affiliate, and a special study class on Scientific Visual Data Analysis and Multimedia. Both were started in Fall 1991 by Dr. Ron Kriz after working for a summer in NCSA's Software Development Group. In addition faculty at Virginia Tech are pioneers in human-computer interaction (HCI) design and evaluation research and development. Common to both HCI and SV efforts Virginia Tech proposes to use the CAVE(tm) as an instrument to coordinate existing research and education-research programs on campus.

The CAVE(tm) Automatic Virtual Environment) is a projection-based virtual reality system that surrounds the user with four screens. The screens are arranged in a cube made up of three rear-projection screens for walls and a down-projection screen for the floor. A user wears stereo shutter glasses and a six-degrees-of-freedom head-tracking device. As the user moves inside the CAVE(tm), the correct stereoscopic perspective projections are calculated for each wall. A second sensor and buttons in a wand held by the user provide interaction with the virtual environment. For more details on the CAVE(tm) environment go to the URL:

Both HCI and SV activities have also been targeted by Virginia Tech in its long term strategic plans to build an Advanced Communications and Information Technology Center (ACITC) building that will serve research and education programs in southwest Virginia, both on- and off-campus, into the 21st century. In partnership with NCSA/EVL, which pioneered CAVE(tm) technology, the goal is to focus on development and evaluation of Virtunal Environments (VE) for scientific applications, within the regional framework of the ACITC.

Over the past six years, faculty and students who have used SV tools in the laboratory and NCSA's remote supercomputing resources have had the opportunity to either experiment unassisted or attend classes where they could learn about visual methods and create their own visual experiments and multimedia presentations of their research. Over fifty class projects, five Masters theses, and four Ph.D. dissertations have explored the use of SV tools for research and education. A six year summary of laboratory activities can viewed at

Our Approach: Synergism of HCI and SV

From these experiences, we see the potential for HCI and SV to be used together to synergistically investigate complex physical phenomena related to complex 3D scientific structures. Together, HCI and SV not only provide a basis for fundamental scientific investigation but also provide an important link between research and education. The same SV tools that provide insight (new knowledge) to a particular research problem can also effectively be used by the researcher to educate students in the classroom.

Well-designed user interfaces not only enhance the SV experience, but also provide a rich and challenging research topic. With new VEs such as the CAVE(tm), there is even more demand to study the CAVE(tm) from an HCI reserach perspective prior to developing SV tools. This approach places emphasis on HCI development and evaluation before effective SV tools can be designed. Further, engineers and scientists have immediate need for data analysis capabilities; hence, this program proposes to organize our CAVE(tm) project in two parts that will proceed in parallel:

This project is primarily an equipment acquistion the first year, where Virginia Tech will buy CAVE(tm) technology from the Electronic Visualization Laboratory (EVL) at the University of Illinois through the Pyramid Corporation. In the second and third years, the HCI group at Virginia Tech will develop and evaluate specific user interfaces unique to the CAVE(tm) environment. We will describe three targeted applications as examples of research areas in which work will be performed:

  • Molecular Modeling in Biochemistry

  • Failure and Reliability in Fiber-Reinforced Composites

  • Molecular Modeling in Material Science

    Independently these three projects will experiment with existing visual tools that are being converted to CAVE(tm) format by programmers at NCSA. Hence, engineers and scientists can immediately benefit from the CAVE(tm) environment with existing SV tools such as those from Molecular Systems Incorporated, Advanced Visual Systems, or Silicon Graphics Explorer. Conversion of existing SV tools also benefits engineers and scientists by creating a link from the researcher's desktop to the CAVE(tm), minimizing development time in a "CAVE(tm)- only" environment. The net result is that the researcher is more productive.

    Other projects on campus may also benefit from access to the CAVE(tm), but because of proposal space limitations, these projects are designated as secondary applications and will not be described in detail:

    To facilitate the proposed collaboration between Virginia Tech and NCSA, the two institutions have established a formal partnership through the NCSA-SGI Power Grid Alliance, (January 1996), where they agreed to exchange personnel and share research results related to the projects that access Virginia Tech's SGI Power Challenge and the SGI Power ONYX proposed herein.

    The following sections first motivate the need for HCI research, and then describe the type of HCI and application-specific research projects, currently funded by NSF and other agencies, that will be explored as CAVE(tm) technology develops.

    Motivation for HCI Research

    "Techniques and tools for interacting with virtual environments are at the core of research and development efforts around the world." Thus begins the Introduction to a Special Issue of the ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction on Virtual Reality Software and Technology [September 1995].

    During the past several years, virtual environments have gained broad attention throughout the computing community. During roughly that same time period, usability of the user interface has become a major focus of interactive system development.

    Despite intense and wide-spread research in both VEs and in user interface usability, the exciting new technololgy of VEs has not yet been closely coupled with the important characteristic of usability--a necessary coupling if VEs are to reach their full potential. Appropriate development and usability evaluation of VEs can help prevent, for example, the situation in a VE where there is a fundamental mismatch between what a device is suited for versus what it is actually being used for.

    Although numerous methods exist for developing interactive computer applications, these methods have well-known limitations, especially when applied to VEs. For example, many existing usability evaluation methods are time-consuming and personnel intensive. Most methods are applicable only to a narrow range of interface types (e.g., GUIs--graphical user interfaces) and have had little or no use with innovative, non-routine interfaces such as those found in VEs. VE applications have interaction styles so radically different from ordinary user interfaces that traditional user-task-based development may be neither appropriate nor effective. The focus of most existing methods, while properly user-task-based, is on a single user performing isolated, low-level user tasks--very different than VEs in which one or more users are performing integrated, shared, multi-thread tasks. For example, VE tasks such as navigation, distance estimation, depth perception, object manipulation, and visual search need interaction techniques unlike those typically used in GUIs. Many characteristics that generally are unique to VE applications and are key to their usability, such as perceived presence and fidelity, are absolutely not addressed in existing development methods. Methods do not support, for example, quantification (or even qualification) of a user's perception of such characteristics. Methods do not easily support evaluation of VE applications in which two or more users interact; this requires evaluation, as a whole, of multiple users using different sets of hardware, perhaps even at different physical sites. Immersive versus non-immersive views are another characteristic of VE interaction that does not exist in traditional user interfaces.

    Too little attention to usability of VEs is reported in the literature. More likely, unsubstantiated claims of improved performance and user satisfaction are based at best on a few user interface guidelines and at worst on warm fuzzy feelings of VE developers and "way cool" comments from VE users. The few reported evaluations are rarely comprehensive. For example, novel interaction techniques developed by van Dam et al. at Brown University are routinely evaluated for usability, but seldom are the techniques set in a realistic application and used to perform 'real' user tasks within that application. Thus far, VEs have been largely about "gee whiz" technology. An in-depth literature review by a Virginia Tech PhD candidate [Snow, 1995] confirms a lack of foundational work for VE development and especially for evaluation.

    The field of VEs is now maturing to the point for basic research to be not only fruitful, but actually critical to optimal use of this promising technology. Evaluation of human performance and satisfaction lies at the heart of assessing and improving user interfaces to VEs. An underlying assumption among both researchers and developers seems to be that VEs, because they are a new technology, are inherently good and usable. Progress is needed to move beyond this flawed assumption, to have a focus on usability become a routine activity in VE development. Thus, a key aspect of our VE research is that we want to go beyond simply creating new technology and assuming it, merely by its novelty, is inherently better for a user than existing technology. Instead, we will continually interact with users to assess the effects of our new technology on user task performance and satisfaction. As interactive systems move beyond WIMP (window, icon, menu, pointer) interfaces, an evolutionary cycle of conceptualization, implementation, and evaluation becomes essential to produce VEs that are effective and efficient, not merely new and different.

    Background: HCI Development

    Human-computer interaction (HCI) is what happens when a human user and a computer system cooperatively perform tasks. Human-computer interaction includes user interface hardware and software, user and system modeling, cognitive and behavioral science, human factors, empirical studies, methodology, techniques, and tools. The goal of much work in human-computer interaction is, in one way or another, providing users with a high level of usability.

    As shown simplistically in Figure 1, a fundamental dichotomy exists in user interface development [Hix & Hartson, 1993]: user interaction development and user interface software development. The user interaction component is how a user interface works, its "look and feel" and behavior in response to what a user sees and hears and does while interacting with the computer. The user interface software component is the implemented code that instantiates the interaction component. Both are necessary. However, much research, especially in VR applications, focuses on interface software development and explores very little about interaction development.

    User interface development
    User interaction component User interface software component

    Figure 1. The parts of user interface development

    Interaction design has special requirements not shared by software design. The user interaction component should be designed and developed in terms of needs and behavior of the user and the interface as they interact with each other; this involves human factors guidelines and rules, human cognitive limitations, graphic design, interaction styles, scenarios, usability specifications, rapid prototyping, and evaluation with human users. The user interface software component should be designed and developed in terms of program code that implements the behavioral design; this involves widgets, algorithms, programming, procedure libraries, control and data flow, state transition diagrams, event handlers, callbacks, and object-oriented representations. Both historically and practically, interactive systems are not always designed and developed with this dichotomy between the interaction component and interface software. The interaction component is often designed by software engineers and programmers along with the software of an interactive system. The result has been user interfaces of varying quality and usability.

    Objective and Approach for HCI Reserach

    Despite many research advances in interactive computer systems, usability barriers still exist that impede human productivity and have a profound impact on computer users in business, government, industry, education, and indeed, the whole nation. To break down these usability barriers we need vastly improved development methodologies, focused on ensuring usability of the user interface. Capitalizing on our expertise in HCI research (see Why Us? section) and the uniqueness of our user interface research facilities (again, see Why Us?), we propose to use the CAVE(tm) to study use of immersive VEs. Our goal is two-fold. First, we wish to determine the most effective user interface models and metaphors to use in developing usable CAVE(tm)-based applications. Second, at a meta-level, we wish to improve the overall VE development process.

    The methodological gains of human-computer interaction must be brought to bear as part of a new technology for breaking barriers to interactive computing. We propose to attack barriers on a broad scale, producing methods to change the way developers of VEs think about the process of developing these systems. We anticipate innovative, ground-breaking research leading to new ways of focusing on user interaction as a central characteristic of VE development and use.

    One of the most important advances in HCI in recent years is a recognition that the process of user interaction development must be user-centered, focusing on the human rather than the system [Hix & Hartson, 1993]. Because of the dichotomy explained above, traditional, accepted methods for software engineering [e.g., Boehm, 1988] do not necessarily produce a user interface that is usable, useful, and effective [Gould & Lewis, 1985], [Whiteside et al., 1988], [Hartson & Hix, 1989], [Gould, Boies, & Lewis, 1991]. A development methodology that revolves around early and continual user involvement in the development process is the accepted approach to achieve a high quality user interface [Whiteside et al., 1988], [Hartson & Hix, 1989], [Gould, Boies, & Lewis, 1991]. This approach, which includes user analysis, user-centered requirements definition, rapid prototyping, formative usability evaluation, and iterative refinement [Hartson & Hix, 1989], is the one that will be employed and extended in this project to invent, develop, and study user interfaces for CAVE(tm) applications.

    In particular, we will involve users from inception to installation of our targeted applications. From the beginning, we will interview a variety of potential users of CAVE(tm) applications such as the ones previously described, to determine what kinds of "objects" they work with, and--equally importantly for the user interaction design--how they would like to work with these objects. For much of our work, we will employ usability engineering techniques [Whiteside et al., 1988] to quantify usability of the CAVE(tm) applications. In particular, we will set usability specifications (operationally defined criteria for measuring usability) for our systems, and test representative users to find usability problems. We will collect both quantitative and qualitative user performance data, compare our results to the usability specifications, and perform cost/benefit analyses to determine which problems most affect system usability. These problems can then be resolved in order of their affects on usability, rather than in an ad hoc, random fashion. Using this approach will achieve both our goals: to determine which methods of interaction with CAVE(tm)-based applications are most effective for a user, and to improve the VE application development process.

    Why Us?

    Our Qualifications
    The Human-Computer Interaction Project at Virginia Tech is one of the pioneering groups in HCI, in existence since 1979. Working in an interdisciplinary setting of computer scientists, human factors experts, psychologists, and psychometricians, our group has become internationally recognized for state-of-the-art contributions in conceptual areas including user interface development methodology, modeling of human-computer interaction, and software support tools for the interface development process. We have extensive research interaction with organizations such as IBM, DEC, the Naval Research Laboratory, Eastman Kodak, Naval Surface Warfare Center, PRC, NCR, and many others, giving us insight into real-world problems. This breadth of interdisciplinary research and application is rarely found in an academic setting.

    Unique Physical Facilities
    Our HCI group has had more than $4 million in research funding, including an NSF Research Infrastructure award ($2 million, with funds from Virginia Tech), specifically for building a unique HCI research infrastructure involving three laboratories:


    While we anticipate a broad variety of HCI research issues to be addressed in the CAVE(tm), following are several specific examples that we will pursue. Each of these will be addressed in the context of the appropriate target application ares described in the section following this section.

    Psychological Fidelity in 3D Immersive Virtual Information Environments (Dr. R. C. Williges)

    The primary goal of this basic research is to provide a fundamental understanding of the major independent and dependent variables that characterize presence in 3D immersive VEs. These variables will be investigated using sequential research techniques to build an integrated database using results of several studies to specify functional relationships among these variables. This database will be valuable in designing user interfaces for our target application areas, as well as other CAVE(tm) applications.

    Computer Conferencing Using 3D Visualization (Dr. R.C. Williges)

    Computer conferencing can be enhanced by 3D visualization in order to facilitate electronic presence in human-to-human communication. A host of user interface parameters and alternative human sensory communication variables need to be considered simultaneously through sequential experimentation in the design of these computer-augmented systems. The CAVE(tm) will provide a unique venue for addressing these parameters, which could be particularly useful for use of the CAVE(tm), for example, for educational purposes.

    3D Visualization for Group Decision Making (Dr. Brian M. Kleiner)

    Decision making work systems are open, and can operate in a collocational, virtual, or potentially, a 3D environment. Within this framework, 3D visualization such as provided by a CAVE(tm) can add a new dimension to the data-to-information conversion process by revolutionizing information portrayal and perception. Visual techniques such as system archetyping have been shown to be useful in cross-cultural situations, and 3D visualization research on cross-cultural groups may lead to significant breakthroughs. Again, this research can be useful for educational activities using the CAVE(tm).

    Sociotechnical Systems Evaluation of 3D Visualization (Dr. Brian M. Kleiner)

    Sociotechnical systems theory, analysis, and design are concerned with optimization of the total system design through consideration of relevant social, technical, and environmental variables. This framework can benefit the evaluation of 3D visualization systems, and 3D visualization may offer a break through in understanding the relationship among up to 63 complex, interrelated performance variables. Such considerations are particularly important in CAVE(tm) applications.

    Inventing and Evaluating VE Interaction Techniques (Dr. Deborah Hix)

    Collaboration with the HCI Lab at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington DC is focusing on invention, implementation, and evaluation of novel interaction techniques--ways in which users interact with computers. This is expanding beyond GUI-style interaction techniques into the even more challenging realm of VEs. A goal of our research is to minimize the mental and physical effort required for user tasks. By studying new means of communication to facilitate human-computer interaction, we develop devices and techniques to support these exchanges. Our research paradigm is to invent new interaction techniques, implement them in hardware and software, and then study them empirically to determine whether and in what situations they improve human performance. The CAVE(tm) will provide an excellent way for us to devise and assess new interaction techniques in the context of the target application areas.

    Usability Characteristics of VEs (Dr. Deborah Hix)

    Research also sponsored by NRL is formulating a missing epistemological ingredient in developing usable VRs: a multi-dimensional taxonomy of usability characteristics specifically for VEs. By assessing current user interaction development methods to determine which of these characteristics are addressed and which are not, this taxonomy will serve as a framework for analysis, discussion, comparison, definition, research, development, and evaluation of user interaction development methods. The CAVE(tm) will greatly enhance this basic research by providing a medium for a class of VR applications that we would not otherwise be able to explore in depth.

    Learning Transfer in VEs (Dr. Deborah Hix, with Dr. James Templeman of the Naval Research Laboratory)

    Work funded by ONR is investigating how learning acquired in a VE about spatial orientation and navigation transfers to knowledge about orientation and navigation in the real world. This learning transfer work will help identify key usability characteristics of VEs.

    Evaluating CAVE(tm) Depth Perception (Dr. R.W. Ehrich)

    Depth illusion is essential to virtual reality and to the creation of the "inside out" illusion of the CAVE(tm). Cruz-Neira, et al (1993) list eight depth cues that are important to navigation in the real world: 1. Occlusion, 2. Perspective, 3. Binocular vision, 4. Motion, 5. Eye convergence, 6. Eye accommodation, 7. Atmospheric fog, 8. Lighting and shadows.

    They note that VE adds 3, 4, and 5 to the capabilities of conventional workstations. We are interested in evaluating the performance of CAVE(tm) implementations in creating depth illusion to test CAVE(tm) models and to improve their performance. There has been little work to date to obtain quantitative assessment of users performing depth discrimination tasks in CAVESĹ or comparisons with real-world performance on the same tasks. We would further like to determine the effectiveness of available cues to determine the importance of each.

    We envision, for example, the design of depth tracking tasks, where a subject is instructed to keep an object a fixed distance from a reference object which randomly changes its depth from the viewer.

    Tool Environments to Support Development and Evaluation of VEs (Dr. Deborah Hix and Dr. H. Rex Hartson)

    While a vast number of tools exist for producing the software component of an interactive system, none of these support the activities in a life cycle that ensures usability of the interaction design. Further, most tools only produce code suitable for GUI-style interfaces. Current techniques for developing and evaluating interface usability are mostly manual, performed using pencil and paper. We have built an integrated environment of tools called IDEAL [Ashlund & Hix, 1992a, 1992b; Hix & Hartson, 1994], the Interface Development Environment and Analysis Lattice, that supports current techniques for design and evaluation of GUI interfaces. IDEAL allows an interface developer/evaluator to create, manage, and link (via hypertext links) a lattice of user task descriptions with the activities of empirical evaluation in an integrated interactive "usability workbench". Evaluation of IDEAL with professional interface developers revealed that IDEAL is, in fact, the beginnings of a useful tool for managing the processes and techniques of interaction design and evaluation. We will extend IDEAL to include new methods for developing and evaluating VE applications.

    Joint-Cognitive Visualization in the CAVE(tm) (Dr. M. Abrams and Dr. C.A. Shaffer)

    The CAVE(tm) is a breakthrough as a medium to support exploration of high volume and high dimension data sets. But the predominate model of user interaction used in the CAVE(tm) so farăthe user alone actively specifying what to extract for visualizationăcannot scale to cope with increasing data volume and dimensionality. Methods to navigate though voluminous data and mine the data to discover related data items are potential solutions. Therefore we propose developing an alternate model of tomorrowĽs visualization systems for the CAVE(tm): a joint-cognitive system, in which both user and computer are active agents that interact to enable the process of discovery. The computer, through data mining, may suggest navigation strategies to the user; the user while following these, may pose questions for the computer or ask for on-the-fly analysis of data features which leads to the computer refining or modifying its suggested navigation strategy.

    Collaborative Learning with Shared 3D Visualizations (Dr. J.M. Carroll)

    We have a substantial research program underway directed at creating and evaluating new paradigms for collaborative education in middle school physical science and high school physics (Carroll et al., 1995). In this work we are experimenting with enhancements to multi-user domains (MUDs) that incorporate graphical simulations that students can manipulate and analyze. The CAVE will allow us to extend these experiments to next-generation hardware and software, to investigate collaborative educational experiences with 3D visualizations. Some work on collaborative architectural analysis of virtual room layouts in the CAVE has just been published (Leigh et al., 1996), and we have been in contact with these investigators about the feasibility of extensions into scienceeducation.


    Following are descriptions of three target application areas, as examples of the kinds of application-based research we will pursue in the CAVE(tm). The HCI research, just described, will be used to study these applications, as appropriate.

    CAVE(tm) Visualization of Biomolecular Structures (Dr. David Bevan)

    We are engaged in several projects in which computational techniques are applied to studies of protein structure and function. In one of these projects, we are computing free energies of isomerization of peptide bonds, the results of which will contribute to a better understanding of protein folding [Kurusu & Bevan, 1994]. In another project, we are simulating the dynamic properties of peptides, using published data from fluorescence resonance energy transfer to validate the computations [Bevan, 1995]. This analysis represents a novel application of molecular dynamics to biomolecules, and from it we will be able to infer the atomic and molecular motions of peptides and understand better the origins of their motion and stability. In a third project, we are using homology modeling to provide initial models of two recently discovered proteins. One of the proteins is a protein phosphatase from an archaebacterium and thus may represent an ancestral form of homologous enzymes in higher organisms [Leng et al. 1995]. The other protein, called water-stress protein, has been isolated from another primitive organism (a cyanobacterium) and contributes to the desiccation tolerance of that organism [Scherer & Potts, 1989; Sines, 1996]. We also are conducting research to develop quantitative structure-activity relationships (QSAR) [Shannon et al., 1991; Bramble et al., 1994]. In this project, we are attempting to apply computational techniques to calculation of molecular parameters that may be effective descriptors in the QSAR. One of these is the free energy of solvation, a parameter that will affect membrane permeability of molecules (e.g., drugs) and the binding of ligands to their receptors (i.e., docking).

    These projects currently are performed using software such as Quanta/CHARMm, MidasPlus, DOCK, AMBER,Gaussian94, MOPAC, and AMSOL. The computationally intensive programs (e.g., AMBER, CHARMm, Gaussian94) are installed on the University IBM SP-2. The others are installed on departmental workstations.

    Central to these projects is the need to visualize the structures throughout the simulations. Currently, we view structural information on graphics workstations, while recognizing the limitations inherent in displaying a three-dimensional molecule in two dimensions. A CAVE(tm) will enhance our ability to visualize the molecules, allowing us to take a significant step forward in our research efforts. A CAVE(tm) also will provide the environment to gain a better "feel" for molecular interactions through tactile feedback, thereby enhancing our molecular modeling capabilities. These vastly improved resources will revitalize our research by allowing us to undertake projects currently impossible.

    We will begin our CAVE(tm) experience by collaborating with researchers at NCSA. By traveling to NCSA, Bevan and students will quickly gain the benefit of CAVE(tm) visualization and then return with expertise that will enable more rapid implementation of CAVE(tm) technology at Virginia Tech.

    We also will integrate the CAVE(tm) into our curriculum. For example, Bevan teaches a graduate-level course entitled "Molecular Modeling of Proteins and Nucleic Acids." Students learn the theory of molecular modeling, but much of the course is taught from a more practical perspective in that students are required to do several computer-based problems and projects. The students in the molecular modeling course will all experience the CAVE(tm) for visualization, and those with the inclination may apply it in their class projects. The Department of Biochemistry at Virginia Tech has the second or third largest undergraduate enrollment (~300 students) in the country. Bevan will develop programs to use the CAVE(tm) to assist these students in visualizing protein and nucleic acid structures as part of their undergraduate training. Many years ago when we first began using computer visualization of structures in our classes, the students were very enthusiastic because they gained a much better understanding of structural features. The CAVE(tm) will raise this educational experience to a level that far surpasses what we are currently able to provide.

    Failure and Reliability in Fiber-Reinforced Metal and Ceramic Composites (Dr. W. A. Curtin)

    There are three requirements for the successful use of ceramic and metal matrix composites in high-temperature structural applications in advanced jet engines and energy conversion systems. First, the microstructure of the material must be optimized to perform as designed; second, the intrinsic reliability of the as-designed materialmust be known so appropriate safety factors can be set; third, the as-designed material must be manufacutred.

    All three key requirements thus depend on the micromechanics of broken fibers in the composite and on the effects of stress concentrations on the progression of fiber breaks in the composite. Our research is specifically aimed at quantitatively addressing these issues using numerical computer simulation models of damage evolution, including the realistic 3D damage aspects.

    We have developed a new numerical technique to investigate the effect of stress concentrations on performance as a function of the underlying micromechanical properties of the composite constituents [Zhou & Curtain, 1995]. The computational technique uses a highly efficient algorithm based on Lattice Green Functions to calculate the 3D stress distributions in aligned fiber bundles for arbitrary configurations of broken fibers in the composite, and determines the evolution of specific fiber damage configurations throughout the material as increasing loads are applied. The numerical simulations produce composite strength distributions in the absence of manufacturing defects and, using visualization techniques, can demonstrate the specific sequence of 3D fiber damage that leads to development of a complex "critical defect" that causes composite failure.

    While the numerical simulation technique and the micromechanics are now well established and a wide variety of calculations are being performed, a major limitation in the complete analysis of the composite failure process is proper and full 3D visualization of the damage state of the material. Although the numerical calculations are in full 3D, visualization of the evolving stress states is currently restricted to sequential observation of 2D slices of the composite perpendicular to the fiber/tensile load axis. The analysis of 2D slices, and the reconstruction of appropriate "critical" defects in 3D, is very time consuming and not amenable to a clear physical analysis of the failure evolution. The failure evolution will occasionally take place on a different plane from an identified plane that looks as if it will become critical.

    In addition, current identification of the critical region involves running a complete simulation to locate the central failure plane and then a repeat simulation to retain damage evolution in the 3D vicinity of that plane, thus demanding twice the computational time. The overall data storage requirements of the full progression of damage throughout the entire material and over the full loading history is also prohibitive at the present time. Under certain conditions relevant to many practical composites, the critical defect that drives failure is a diffuse 3D distribution of break clusters which are mechanically unstable and drives macroscopic component failure. The 2D visualization of such clusters and their evolution is quite unsatisfactory. Furthermore, the analytic models we are developing based on the simulation results invoke the concept of a generalized "critical cluster" and have specific implications for the size of such clusters; accurate determination of the critical clusters from 3D visualization of the damage would greatly aid in assessing the applicability of the analytic concepts to the real materials.

    We can easily introduce random damage into the simulation models, simulate the failure, and then reconstruct the material and investigate the vicinity of the critical damage initiation. However, identification of the initial damage and damage evolution are really rather difficult to study from 2D images only. Other types of manufacturing damage are also being studied currently, and visualization of the damage evolution, and in particular the localization of damage around large initial defects, would be particularly useful as this work progresses.

    We have attempted to develop 3D representations of the stress/damage state in the composite, but the current 3D representations on a 2D terminal screen are far too complex to study in detail. Moreover, the spatial relationships of various fibers are difficult to assess because of shielding and the sheer number of individual elements requiring attention. Our current composite sizes are 400-1000 fibers in the cross-section with 20-40 elements per fiber in the longitudinal direction. And such sizes are the minimum sizes required to obtain proper results. The stress states in such a system vary rapidly from fiber to fiber, and vary fairly rapidly over the length elements as well. Since fiber failure is driven by specific high stresses on just one or a few elements, complete resolution of the entire 8000-40000 elements is needed to accurately capture the damage state.

    In light of the clear advantages that visualization provides for observation and interpretation of composite damage evolution and failure, a highly advanced, 3D visualization environment will be extremely helpful in furthering our research in this area. The CAVE(tm) provides, in particular, the possibility of entering into our 3D composite and searching out complex damage states internally. An ultimate real-time and/or interactive mode of operation would allow damage evolution to be fully followed during the computation, and would eliminate the need for multiple CPU-consuming identical runs and for tedious and difficult reconstruction of composite damage states from 2D slice data. As 3D Computer-Aided Tomography becomes even more practically available, the simultaneous visualization of damage in actual components and in model composite representations can also be coupled through the use of visualization technology.

    In summary, the complexity of the failure processes in such advanced, heterogeneous, materials requires 3D visualization to fully interpret and utilize the information contained in the simulation models and to couple that information to real material systems. Acquisition of the CAVE(tm) will thus ultimately assist us in guiding manufacturing process, NDE interpretation, and providing reliable predictions of the performance.

    CAVE(tm) Visualization of Results of Large Scale Simulations in Material Science (Dr. Diana Farkas)

    This project involves a basic study of the structure of various defects in materials at a molecular atomistic level. The project uses descriptions of interactions between the various atoms that are based on both experimental data and the first principle quantum mechanical calculations. The technique we presently use for interatomic forces is the embedded atom method (EAM) [Daw & Baskes, 1984] and a modified version of the embedded defect (ED) method [Pasianot et al., 1991] that we have developed.

    Currently we are studying various intermetallic materials that are novel candidates for structural applications at high temperatures. We have developed force laws (interatomic potentials) for a series of materials [Farkas, 1994a; Farkas et al., 1994] and are now working on the description of impurity effects in these materials. Once the force law description for all component elements is obtained, the equilibrium atomic configuration around any defect can be calculated through various energy minimization schemes, such as molecular statics, molecular dynamics, or Montecarlo techniques. Detailed information on atomistic configuration of the defective region of the solid is then linked to properties in the material that are controlled by such defects. The main defects that we are interested in are interfaces, dislocations, and cracks. These defects control the mechanical behavior of structural materials.

    The Atomistic Simulation Laboratory at Virginia Tech has been involved in atomistic computer simulation of materials behavior for more than 10 years. Our work has included contributions in the area of grain boundary structure [Farkas, 1994b], dislocation core structure [Ternes et al., 1995], planar faults [Farkas & Vailhe, 1993], point defects [Xie & Farkas, 1994], and cracks [Shastry & Farkas, 1995]. In recent years the increased speed of available computing facilities has allowed us to undertake large scale massive simulations involving millions of atoms and study to structures of defective solids and their relation with material properties.

    The Atomistic Simulation Laboratory has facilities consisting of various workstations networked with supercomputing facilities in the College of Engineering (SGI Power Challenge) and the University ( IBM SP-2). For visualization we currently use the Scientific Visualization Laboratory. For example we have developed techniques to visualize dislocation core structures. These large scale simulations pose new challenges in ways in which results can be visualized and analyzed. Conventional two-dimensional scientific visualization packages usually cannot handle the large number of atoms involved in these massive simulations. Furthermore, new computer architectures and increasing speeds allow the study of defects that are truly three-dimensional in nature. This means that the results have to be visualized necessarily in three dimensions. An example of this type of simulation is work on the study of cracks in intermetallic materials currently under way in the Laboratory. This work is now possible in three dimensions using realistic crystal structures for the materials considered, and preliminary results indicate that the benefits of CAVE(tm) visualization on the fracture mechanics studies at an atomistic level are indeed going to lead to qualitatively new possibilities. Similar benefits are expected in studies of various other defects underway in our laboratory, such as the structure of stepped surfaces, grain boundaries, and interfaces in various materials. Our current work is sponsored by NSF and ONR, representing a large effort with a group of two postdoctoral research fellows and six graduate students. In our proposal we will develop techniques for visualizing crack propagation in three dimensions. Simulations will be carried out for a series of different intermetallic compounds of technological relevance, including single phase materials, ( i.e., NiAl) and two phase materials ( i.e., two phase intermetallic materials in the Ti-Al system)

    We will start with CAVE(tm) applications already in place at NCSA and we will start training graduate students in use of the CAVE(tm) as part of the current projects. Preliminary discussions on a joint project with NCSA have been initiated for this purpose. We will start by visualizing results from static simulations and will later on develop dynamic studies and visualize the dynamics of crack growth. With our CAVE(tm) we will progress to doing real time visualization of dynamic fracture behavior. The main interest will be to study the ductile or brittle response of these materials. This is the essential point from a basic science view, since these studies will contribute to the fundamental understanding of fracture processes. This is also an essential point from a technological point of view, since brittleness is the main limitation for realistic descriptions of energetic interaction among atoms. Molecular statics and molecular dynamics studies of crack behavior require complex visualization schemes to translate the three-dimensional structure into various two-dimensional plotting schemes. CAVE(tm) visualization will allow this research to take a qualitative step forward since the structure of the crack and surrounding area can be seen in a direct way.

    During a recent visit to NCSA's CAVE(tm), a sample simulation was already visualized in the CAVE(tm), using applications already in place. These preliminary results indicate that the benefits of CAVE(tm) visualization on the fracture mechanics studies at an atomistic level are indeed going to lead to new possibilities. In this work we improve on the visualization techniques that we have developed at the Visualization Lab for the various defects studied over the last ten years.

    We propose to integrate results of this research into both our graduate and undergraduate curriculum. The impact of CAVE(tm) molecular modeling visualizations on our graduate curriculum in materials science will be through courses on Computer Simulation in Materials, Science, Dislocation Theory, Diffusion Processes and Fracture of Materials. All these graduate classes are currently being taught by Professor Farkas. In our undergraduate curriculum the simulations will be incorporated in our sophomore materials science class and in our sophomore class on Analytical Methods in Materials Science, taught by Professor Kriz.


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    b. Description of Research Instrumentation and Needs

    (Dr. R.D. Kriz and Dr. Y.J. Beliveau)

    Together the CAVE(tm) hardware and the user interface software constitute the instrument. In this project the instrument is more than just a hardware item but rather the instrument is the user interface in the same sense as the network is the computer. The user interface becomes the medium that allows engineers and scientists to transform their data-rich information-poor world into an information-rich experience. Because the user interface is an inseparable component of the CAVE(tm) instrument, we emphasize the need for a CAVE(tm) HCI user interface programmer. Thus a user interface programmer is included in the budget much the same as a component of the instrument. Other cost shared support staff are discussed in more detail in the Project and Management Plans on page C.2.12.

    Both the HCI user interface group and the simulation-visualization applications group want to avoid the time consuming task of constructing our own home grown virtual environment. Because both groups need a fully functional CAVE(tm) instrument to support existing research programs, we chose to purchase the CAVE(tm) from Pyramid Systems Inc. The CAVE(tm) system purchased from Pyramid Systems Inc. ($175,000) includes the license to use the Electronic Visualization Laboratory (EVL) CAVE(tm) library but this cost does not include the purchase of the SGI Power ONYX. It is important that although engineers typically enjoy building systems, we will not attempt to build a CAVE(tm) but rather this proposal focuses on equipment acquisition and training.

    Details of the standard CAVE(tm) equipment configuration is given by Pyramid Systems Inc. and is similar to the CAVE(tm) system configuration at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA). The largest part of the cost are the video projectors. The purchase of equipment from Pyramid Systems Inc. does not include the required SGI Power ONYX . To keep the cost to a minimum we choose to initially create a three-walled CAVE(tm). Hence a Power ONYX with three reality engines, is configured with 16MB texture memory, 2x90MHz R8000, 64MB memory, 1 IMB, 2GB system disk, first 512MB Super Dens Mem, 2 way interleave, IMB, two RealityEngine2 Graphics subsystem for GR systems, includes 1RM and 16MB texture memory, nine addition 16 MB Texture Memory Raster Manager (RM) card for RealityEngine2, Graphics Expansion Card Cage, upgrade 2GB to 4.3 GB SCSI-2, and finally three MultiChannel Option with Break Out Box, a 21-inch MultiSync Monitor, IRIX 6.1 Operating System Software and Manu- als, first years maintenance: ($780,303) this price includes an educational discount. Note that this a minimum system configuration where most CAVE(tm) systems also purchase a low end workstation such as an SGI Indy to remotely control the Power ONYX.

    Existing simulation-visualization equipment on campus is now outdated. The fast moving market of supercomputing for performing faster calculations and visualizing results has recently become evident at Virginia Tech. Recently the University has purchased an IBM SP2 and the College of Engineering has purchased a SGI Power Challenge. Both computers have been purchased for compute cycles only, hence Engineering has named their machine "Crunch". Desktop workstations are not capable of visually processing simulation results in realtime. Although not all simulation results require realtime visualization in a CAVE(tm) format, most applications can benefit from visual postprocessing simulation results. A list of projects that are routinely using visual data analysis tools can be found on page C.2.1. For most of these applications it is important that the engineer / scientist can manipulate the CAVE(tm) environment with spatial positioning technology.

    In the second and third years, after the CAVE is fully functioning, we propose to work with a Spatial Position Systems Inc. (SPSI) located at the Virginia Tech corporate Research Center. SPSI has been involved with creating new 3D realtime position technology in the automation and construction industry. With SPSI as one of our first industrial partners, we proposed to work with SPSI to create multiple sensor arrays that would allow truely interactive virtual environments. For example with multi head mount positioning devices together with stereo displays, several CAVE(tm) participants could interact with each other as well as the visual CAVE display.

    SPSI is also interested in experimenting with onsite use of positioning sensor arrays to simulate and evaluate the design of future SPSI positioning devices. Results of this research could than be marketed and sold to other industrial partners such as building and construction companies that would benefit from on-site "walkthrus". Developing new positioning technologies could be shared with our NCSA-SGI Power Grid Alliance partners.

    It is important to note that development of new positioning technologies not interfere with the use of the CAVE(tm) for routine research.

    c. Impact of Infrastructure Projects

    For the last six years engineers and scientists at Virginia Tech have experimented with the use of simulation and visualization (SV) tools in their individual research projects. Many of these research projects have used the Laboratory for Scientific Visual Analysis and associated classes to experiment with turnkey visual data analysis tools such as AVS, PV-Wave, Molecular Simulation Inc., and others. From this experience we learned that there is a higher regard for visual thinking and as a result several projects have continued to explore the use of SV. Some of the projects that have benefited the most from the use of SV are listed on page C.2.1.

    Most of those researchers who have continued to explore the use of SV tools have reached a limit either with respect to the visual data analysis software or hardware capabilities presently on campus. For example, recently the University purchased an IBM SP2 and the College of Engineering purchased a SGI Power Challenge both exclusively targeted to meet growing demand for faster calculations. Hence the SGI Power Challenge was given the name "Crunch". In turn the larger data sets are generated and now there is also an emphasis on more efficient use of visual data analysis tools (scientific visualization) to "Look" at these larger data sets.

    Looking at larger data sets requires us to rethink how we use visual data analysis tools in our research. At Virginia Tech we have a unique opportunity in that we have a strong HCI group that can help us take the next step in rethinking how engineers and scientists can use visual data analysis tools to "Look" at their data. With respect to hardware the CAVE(tm) literally adds another dimension to visual data analysis tools. Existing HCI funded research can also benefit from access to CAVE(tm) technology. Specific target applications could also benefit from fundamental HCI CAVE(tm) research.

    The details as to why the CAVE environment is essential to advancing research in both HCI user interface development and evaluation, and simulation-visualization applications in engineering and the sciences is justified and explained in some detail in the previous sections of this proposal. Although there are many applications listed on page C.2.1, the three targeted applications in Visualization of Biomolecular Structures, Fracture in Composites, and Visualization of Large Scale Simulations in Material Science where choose because they were the best candidates that could benefit from visual data analysis in a CAVE(tm) format.

    These applications can also benefit from our recent NCSA SGI Power Grid Alliance.

    The Laboratory for Scientific Visual Analysis has been an NCSA Academic Affiliate since 1991. Recently Virginia Tech has been accepted as a NCSA-SGI Power Grid Alliance member where we have formally established a partnership between our two institutions. The proposal has been posted at This proposal is consistent with Virginia Tech's commitment to enhancing its teaching and research mission through the use of supercomputing, human-computer user interfaces and visualization in various research programs, undergraduate and graduate curriculum, and through extension to Virginia as a land grant university.

    We anticipate that this alliance will benefit both institutions: (1) Virginia Tech benefits by access to current state-of-the-art CAVE(tm) technology at NCSA and (2) NCSA benefits by increasing the engineering and scientific applications base and most importantly access to a well established HCI user interface team. The HCI group at Virginia Tech is particularly well known for their focus on HCI evaluation. Because the CAVE(tm) is still a relatively new tool, there is much to be learned about how to effectively use features unique to a CAVE(tm) from an HCI perspective.

    Because of potential benefit to the NSF Science Technology Center on High Performance Polymeric Adhesives and Composites, this NSF Center will provide $25,000 over the three years period that can be used to facilitate an exchange of key CAVE(tm) personnel from both institutions. Starting in the summer of FY97 these funds will be used to train key Virginia Tech faculty and staff to learn how to work with CAVE(tm) technology under the NCSA-SGI Power Grid Alliance.

    The NSF Science and Technology Center will also contribute three Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP) positions ($45,000/3 years) where SURP students will be chosen from under-represented groups to work with CAVE(tm) technology as part of their summer research project. For the last four years Professor Kriz has work with under-represented students in the SURP program. A recent example of a SURP project is posted on the WEB at From SURP'94 two other under-represented students completed projects in molecular modeling and viscoelasticity. SURP student exposure to CAVE(tm) technology will provide new opportunities for these students in their future carriers.

    d. Project Management Plans

    (Dr. R.D. Kriz and Dr. D.S. Hix)

    Professor Ron Kriz on Simulation-Visualization (SV) applications and Dr. Deborah Hix on Human-Computer Interactions (HCI) will direct and coordinate the SV and HCI activities respectively proposed in the previous sections of this proposal. Professor Kriz is an expert in Scientific Visual Data Analysis where in the last six years he has directed activities in the University Laboratory for Scientific Visual Analysis ( and taught a course on Scientific Visual Data Analysis and Multimedia for the last six years: a summary of student projects are located at Professor Kriz was the director of Digital's pilot Visualization Reference Center and has worked with faculty across campus: for example Professors David Bevan and Kriz were successful in establishing a software site license with Molecular Simulations Inc. Dr. Deborah Hix is a well-known expert in human-computer interaction, having worked in this field for more than 15 years. During this time she has supervised numerous students, both graduate and undergraduate, administered a broad variety of research contracts and grants, and had extensive experience in many aspects of user interface design and development.

    The project management plan is: 1. establish a working CAVE(tm) system at the end of the 5th month. This is possible because the physical construction of the CAVE(tm) will be subcontracted by Pyramid Systems Inc. (see attachment 1) , 2. with the NCSA CAVE(tm) expert begin a training program that will be designed to get members of the HCI team and Drs. Bevan, Curitn, and Farkas and their graduate students CAVE(tm) literate and the remainder of the first year will focus on the "Molecular Modeling Design Project" , 3. second and third years will be a collaborative programing effort to convert existing visualization software tools into a CAVE(tm) format and with a working CAVE(tm) environment begin the proposed development of HCI user interfaces. We have used $60,000 of Virginia Tech funds for Dr. Hix to direct current HCI research in the CAVE(tm).

    With respect to training, the CAVE(tm) will be used by graduate students for their class projects in the Scientific Visual Data Analysis class. Typically these class projects have been incorporated as part of Masters and Ph.D. dissertations. Other existing HCI classes will also take advantage of access to the CAVE(tm) to conduct HCI research. Another exciting training program is the NSF-STC Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP) where for the last four years Professor Kriz has worked with under-represented students on projects related to material science. In a recent SURP project for example,a minority student created a web tutorial on "Understanding Molecular Dynamics" which was posted at Projects like these are prime examples of how we can extend a successful program like SURP by access to CAVE(tm) technology.

    In the second and third years the plan will also support access and training for the other applications previously listed on page C.2.1 . Because the CAVE(tm) is a university resource we also anticipate applications in architecture, arts and history where the emphasis will be more on using the CAVE(tm) for educational programs.

    Because of the emphasis on training and the significance of the CAVE(tm) user interface being part of the instrument, we have devoted most of the cost shared funds available to supporting staff and a HCI faculty positions with regard to support and training. To demonstrate Virginia Tech's support of a staff position, the Computing Center has donated 50% cost share to an existing senior technical support staff to operate and maintain the CAVE(tm) computer hardware. The NSF Science and Technology Center on High Performance Polymers and Adhesives have committed a 50% position , at $25K, to create a CAVE(tm) HCI user interface programmer for the first year. NCSA has contributed to assisting Virginia Tech by offering technical support for the first year of the project as outlined in the attached letter. This additional position would be used to help us get our first year demonstration project in "Molecular Modeling" working, which would also serve as a research training component of the program. The proposed University Research Computing Initiative (1996-1998), when funded by the State of Virginia, has been designed to provide funds for a 3 year position which would contribute to the success of this project. This initiative was designed to be part of the proposed Advanced Communication and Information Technology Center (ACITC) program. A building, housing the ACITC is scheduled to be completed in 2000 at Virginia Tech. This research plan demonstrates Virginia Tech's commitment to create an environment where information technology such as a CAVE(tm) will become part of the university plan for computing and information technology in the 21st century.

    From the same University Research Computing Initiative funds has been targeted for supporting 50% Faculty positions as well as $800,000 for equipment and software. Because the ACITC will be a state regional resource our long term plan is to include industrial access where the university will establish reasonable access fees. In a recent trip to NCSA, key administrators from Virginia Tech studied NCSA's Industrial Affiliates Program. What NCSA has done nationally we hope do regionally.

    4. Budget

    NSF Budget Form 1030 will be posted here as html table for the first, second, third years and total for all three years

    First Year

    Proposed Granted
    AWARD NO. . . . .

    Second Year
    Third Year
    All Years
    Last Revision August 18, 1996