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Beyond wordsBrain surgeon Ali Alaraj got afirst-hand experience of viewing the brain using the CAVE2 virtual reality system.
Beyond wordsBrain surgeon Ali Alaraj got afirst-hand experience of viewing the brain using the CAVE2 virtual reality system.

Imagine turning massive amounts of data – the forces behind a hurricane, for example – into a simulation that a weather researcher could enlarge and explore from the inside.

Architects could walk through their skyscrapers before they are built. Surgeons could rehearse a procedure using data from an individual patient.

In Chicago, researchers and graduate students are creating virtual scenarios for testing in the CAVE2.

The Mars flyover is created from real Nasa data.

The brain tour is based on the layout of blood vessels in a real patient.

Brain surgeon Ali Alaraj remembered the first time he viewed the brain using the CAVE2.

“You can walk between the blood vessels,” said the University of Illinois College of Medicine neurosurgeon. “You can look at the arteries from below. You can look at the arteries from the side.... That was science fiction for me.”

Would doctors process information faster with fewer errors using CAVE2?

That’s the question behind a proposed study that would compare CAVE2 to conventional methods of detecting brain aneurysms and determining proper treatment, said Andreas Linninger, UIC professor of bioengineering, chemical engineering and computer science.

But it’s not all serious business at the lab.

In his spare time during the past two years, research assistant Arthur Nishimoto has been programming the CAVE2 computer with the specifications for the fictional Starship Enterprise.

He now can walk around his life-size recreation of the TV spacecraft!


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