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Arup, JBL and BSS Audio provide technologies for virtual reality facility (VIDEO)

The world’s first full-scale (50ft wide x 40ft long x 32ft high) Big Data exploration facility opened at Virginia Tech on 30 January, 2015. Known as the Cube, this four-storey, $15 million theatre and high-tech laboratory has acoustics, AV and 3D audio systems designed by Arup and audio technologies from JBL Professional and BSS Audio.

The facility uses motion capture and visual environment technologies, specialised acoustics, real-time audio visual rendering and high-performing computers to create a virtual environment laboratory that allows scientists to model and explore data in virtual form.

The Cube is an adaptable space for research and experimentation in big data exploration, immersive environments and AV installations. The facility is located in the Moss Arts Center and shared by the Institute for Creativity, Arts and Technology (ICAT) and the Center for the Arts at Virginia Tech.

Benjamin Knapp, PhD, director of ICAT, explained: “Certainly unique to the Cube is the combination of ambisonic and wave field synthesis (WFS) and immersive visual environments, but this is one of the few environments where the virtual experience can be a shared experience. I am very excited by the array of immersive audio, immersive video projects that we have already lined up for this space.”

“Virginia Tech has a very progressive, ambitious approach to technology, research and futurism,” said Terence Caulkins, acoustic and audio visual consultant at Arup. “We were inspired to develop this project to pioneer new capabilities, such as multi-user collaborative interaction with spatial audio. This space is unique in its raw number of audio channels and also the height of the space, allowing scientists to do more cross-discipline research and experience phenomena quickly from different perspectives. Our challenge was to make the space extremely quiet and neutral, so we could put the footprint of another acoustical space on top of it and then to place a layer of 3D audio on top of that.”

The Cube features an array of technologies, including virtual and augmented reality (head-mounted display and tablet interaction interface). The sound system comprises 124 JBL SCS 8 spatially cued surround coaxial 8in loudspeakers wrapped around the walls and ceiling of the Cube in various resolutions. The JBL SCS 8 is a wide coverage loudspeaker that can be positioned in any number of ways and was developed for spatial sound installations. At the backbone of the routing system are three BSS BLU 806 networked signal processors with Dante and BLU Link connectivity.

Paul Chavez, Harman Professional director, commented: “Spatial sound is a compelling frontier for audio innovation and is likely to positively impact how and what we listen to in the car, the home and in large venues! The Cube is among the elite facilities for exploration and learning, and we are extremely pleased to be involved.”