National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Glenn Research Center


Glenn’s Reconfigurable User-interface & Virtual Reality Exploration (GRUVE) Lab

Download our GRUVE Lab brochure.

gruve lab

Researchers explore a 3D model in the GRUVE Lab’s CAVE.

The 3D cave automatic virtual environment (CAVE) at the NASA Glenn Research Center is a reconfigurable, fully immersive walk-in virtual reality facility consisting of three large 8-ft by 8-ft rear-projection screens on which computer-generated stereoscopic images are displayed. The GRUVE’s three screens can be rearranged to create different configurations: 1) one wall in front and one each on the sides for the CAVE environment, 2) the three walls inline to create a powerwall-like setting with the added benefit of no bezels to interrupt the display, and finally, 3) a compromise where two walls are inline and one wall is perpendicular to them. Special sensors and I/O devices allow the user to fully interact with objects in the virtual environment. Custom-designed, open-source, and commercial software provide a wide array of applications to NASA scientists and engineers.

The GRUVE Lab is a companion facility to the GVIS Lab. Together they provide advanced computer imaging and scientific visualization services to the NASA research community. The GRUVE Lab’s focus is on visual-related data analysis, in particular, developing and applying visualization tools to understand data. Because the amount of data collected is so large and the data is often time-dependent and complex, the advanced visualization and interactive technologies enable greater understanding and insight into the complicated relationships among the data than do the typical tools available at the desktop.

The GRUVE Lab is predominantly used to analyze data obtained either by computer simulation or from one of NASA Glenn’s research test facilities, that is, data collected or recorded during runs of experiments. A related aspect of data analysis is the extraction of data from images or sequences of images, i.e., image processing and analysis. The extracted data is often used to analyze videos of the various experiments.

Benefits of Large-display 3D Immersive Environments

  • Users can interact directly with 3D devices instead of navigating through 3D worlds and 3D data with 2D input and output devices. 
  • Greater resolution and larger display size allow details to be displayed without losing their context.
  • Higher-resolution displays that use physical navigation significantly outperform smaller displays that use pan and zoom navigation.
  • The larger display and 3D capabilities provide faster and more accurate manipulation and viewing of models, including CAD data, with fewer errors; this results in a faster time to market and less re-work.
  • An immersive environment, involving large screens to fill peripheral vision and stereoscopic projection for a real sense of three-dimensional space, engages more parts of the brain, allowing users to better understand problems and to solve them faster.
  • Seeing complex data and flows in 3D, especially in a CAVE, makes it easier for both CFD experts and non-experts to understand the 3D data.
  • It’s easier to communicate a design to the owner, construction team, and end use

Other related areas of work in the GVIS Lab include: presentation of results through still images, videos, 3D models, and multimedia; support of educational and public awareness programs; and program advocacy support.

The GRUVE at the NASA Glenn Research Center is the only public immersive CAVE in northern Ohio.