Thanks to a virtual reality installation of advanced technology consisting of eight Christie Mirage S+3K projectors, four Spanish public universities have succeeded in strengthening their positions as true innovation centres in the field of digital content. The project, promoted by the Secretary of State for Telecommunications and for the Information Society, through its public enterprise body Red.es, and by CRUE (Conference of Rectors of Spanish Universities), is part of the “Digital Professionals” program comprising 21 Spanish public universities.
This program envisages the creation of Production and Experimentation Centres to train and introduce students and professionals to content generation, cutting across videogames, 2D/3D animation, virtual reality, graphic design plus advanced editing of audio and video. Its primary mission is to promote the industry of digital content in Spain, enabling the training of students and professionals from the sector, and furthering the collaboration between universities and private enterprise companies. A total budget of €8.5 million has been assigned to develop the program.
Ingevideo, Christie’s partner, won the public tender for the supply of the virtual reality and motion capture systems. The remaining AV equipment, including systems for production, editing, post-production, videogames programming, design and 3D animation, storage, distribution and publishing of digital contents, was provided by various suppliers and manufacturers.
Four of the 21 universities taking part in the program (Alicante, Burgos, Cádiz and Santiago de Compostela) submitted immersive virtual reality-related projects. Ingevideo equipped these four universities with stereoscopic projection rooms with a system called IL Wall. The 3D projection rooms are immersive 2-walled CAVEs equipped with two Christie Mirage S+3K projectors, screening in L-shape on a 3m x 2m front screen and on the floor. “Created from start to finish by our company, this is a unique system in Spain, and also allows for the addition of more walls to create a complete 6-walled CAVE”, explains Miguel Motos, head of Ingevideo’s Virtual Reality and Simulation Department.
The system is rounded off with the virtual reality software WorldViz, installed in a HP Z800 workstation which is in turn equipped with the latest Nvidia Quadro FX5800 technology, and an optical motion capture tracking system. RealD active glasses must be used to watch the 3D projection. The aspect ratio is 4:3, and the audio is 5.1 with networked amplifiers. Ingevideo also supplied each of the four universities with twenty WorldViz licenses for teaching students how to create interactive 3D environments.
These immersive 2-walled CAVEs are used by students for experimenting with the development of virtual reality applications within a 3D environment, plus the modelling and animation of scenarios and characters, and body and face motion capture. “Our intention is to train a large number of students and professionals in the field of digital content, and to forge new collaborations aimed at promoting technological transfer between universities and private enterprise”, points out José Labrador Serrano, the program coordinator at Red.es. Following the implementation of this program, it is estimated that new collaboration agreements will be signed with over 50 businesses from the sector.
The chosen Christie Mirage S+3K projectors are 3-chip DLP stereoscopic systems delivering 3000 ANSI lumens and SXGA+ native resolution. “This model is well-consolidated in the market and has been previously installed in other CAVEs with excellent results in all cases,” says Miguel Motos, from Ingevideo. “The projector’s features and cost means that it offers excellent value for money, and the system stability is also superb,” he adds.
“We were looking for professional projectors that were currently used in the market,” recalls José Labrador, from Red.es. “The idea was for students to use and learn with projectors that are currently available in the market, and not just systems used for education purposes. In fact, universities admitted that the systems finally installed include more and better features that they had initially expected. Christie projectors surpassed many of the specifications that we had demanded as minimum requirements.”
One of the biggest challenges was the delivery and installation of all the systems within such a short deadline. “To be honest, it was a daunting challenge because the results of the tender were only announced in September, and the systems had to be installed and operative by the end of October”, claims José Labrador. “Nonetheless, Ingevideo met every deadline and we are thoroughly satisfied. They did an excellent job. What made it more difficult was the fact that they had to adapt to the peculiarity of the commission which meant dealing with us yet actually working on the ground with the universities,” he adds.
Miguel Motos, from Ingevideo, also highlighted the challenge of installing the systems all over Spain in just one month. As he says, “it wasn’t easy to supply the equipment and all the hardware and software in such a short period of time, but we finally succeeded, thanks to lots of hard work and also the impeccable service provided by Christie, without which it would have been impossible.”
After seeing the results so far, many other universities were have been really impressed by the potential of virtual reality and are now studying the possibility of incorporating similar systems, also within the “Digital Professionals” program.