Connecting CAVES

Researchers at Purdue University have created open-source software that makes it easier to collaborate in virtual reality environments with colleagues at other locations.


Researchers at PurdueUniversity‘s RosenCenter for Advanced Computing have created open-source software that makes it easier to collaborate in virtual reality environments with colleagues at other locations.



The Access Grid Juggler software, now available free of charge on the Internet, eliminates the need to create customised programs. The software, referred to as AGJuggler, can be used on platforms ranging from desktop simulators to a sophisticated virtual reality system called a CAVE, or cave automatic virtual environment, in which users are immersed in an interactive 3D environment.



“For example, if you were a chemist and you had software to do 3D research and you wanted to work with people at other institutions, you would have to write a custom program to connect your two CAVES together,” said Laura Arns, associate director of Purdue’s EnvisionCenter, which is part of the RosenCenter. “With this software, you write your program just like you normally would for one CAVE. Then you add this software, and it automatically lets you connect both CAVES.”



Researchers announced the software’s release at an annual supercomputing conference called SC|05 at the Washington State Convention and TradeCenter in Seattle.



Although commercial toolkits exist for collaborative virtual reality, AGJuggler is available as open source so anyone can use, modify or improve it, Arns said.



AGJuggler can be integrated with a system of hardware and software called Access Grid, which is commonly used for videoconferencing.



“There is other commonly used software called VRJuggler, which enables you to create virtual environments, while Access Grid software lets you do videoconferencing and share audio, video and PowerPoint presentations,” Arns said. “AGJuggler now basically lets you combine VRJuggler and Access Grid.”



“The idea is that you can visualise your data and videoconference at the same time, so you can have discussions about your data and point things out to each other in the virtual world.”



AGJuggler has been developed over the past 18 months, primarily by Arns and Dioselin Gonzalez, a research assistant.



“One of our major goals at the RosenCenter is finding ways to make supercomputing more accessible,” Arns said. “Companies and universities are becoming increasingly distributed rather than located at a single site.



“We hope that other groups will begin to use AGJuggler for collaborative teaching and research between sites and across different institutions.”



AG Juggler can be obtained by going to the Access Grid community portal here.