VR Expert Carolina Cruz-Neira Showcases New Product

VR Expert Carolina Cruz-Neira Showcases New Product
Carolina Cruz-Neira is taking the virtual reality programs from UALR’s Emerging Analytics Center on the road to conferences across the country and in Europe.

Carolina Cruz-Neira with the University of Arkansas at Little Rock was in Chicago a week ago and in Atlanta last month to showcase her team’s CAVE-in-a-Box.

She was also elected to the National Academy of Engineering in February, joining five others in Arkansas, for her work in virtual reality, work that includes inventing the CAVE.

The CAVE, or Cave Automatic Virtual Environment, is a VR room that immerses users projecting 3D images onto walls.

CAVE-in-a-Box is a scaled-down and transportable version of the original. It’s about the size of a booth at a trade show and was used in that capacity last month by Hytrol Conveyor Co. Inc. of Jonesboro.

Hytrol used the CAVE-in-a-Box to show potential customers how Hytrol’s products would look and integrate with their existing operations, Cruz-Neira said. Hytrol contracted with UA Little Rock’s George W. Donaghey Emerging Analytics Center to bring the CAVE-in-a-Box to the trade show; Cruz-Neira is the center’s director.

She said the Hytrol project succeeded, with the company’s representatives understanding how the technology could help them and her team providing the technical expertise required.

She hopes this is the start of a long-term collaboration with the company.

“It’s great for us because, as a research center, that’s what we want: challenges that actually help industry, especially in Arkansas, to be competitive, to be unique, to have an edge that no other industry in their market may have,” Cruz-Neira said. “At the same time, because we do all this work with students, then we’re also creating a very uniquely trained workforce in the state.”

The CAVE-in-a-Box was also part of the “It is two minutes to midnight” art exhibition at Weinberg/Newton Gallery in downtown Chicago. The exhibition was scheduled to end Saturday.

Cruz-Neira said her team collaborated with Ellen Sandor, other artists and the scientists who manage the Doomsday Clock so that their CAVE-in-a-Box could show gallery-goers how global events throughout the years have affected the Doomsday Clock’s assessment of the risk of global annihilation.