ACM’s SIGGRAPH 2009 conference in August featured an exhibit that enabled visitors to experience the various levels of vision and hearing of animals, such as the ultraviolet vision of birds or the ultrasonic hearing of whales. Computer scientists at Texas A&M University worked with the university’s fine arts expert Carol LaFayette on the virtual environment program, “I’m Not There.” Professor Fred Parke developed the system, which requires participants to don three-dimensional glasses and use a Wii controller to navigate through the immersive exhibit. He also is working on a liquid-crystal display version of the system. The virtual environment was enhanced by surround-sound recordings of animals in the wild and scenes set on Cocos Island, located southwest of Costa Rica. “The Viz lab is about the synthesis between art and science, so we inserted artistic elements into these scenes to make them more realistic and interesting,” LaFayette says. She believes science and natural history museums could use such technology to enhance the experience for visitors. “Think of all the exhibits that could come to life–and in a very green way,” she says.
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