VuePod comes with all the high-tech trappings: 12 high-definition 55-inch 3D television screens, a computer capable of running high-end graphics, a Wii remote, a BlueTooth device similar to Kinect and 3D glasses that immerse you completely in a virtual world.
However, if you're a gamer salivating at the idea of such a system, you're out of luck. Unfortunately, VuePod is just for engineers.
VuePod is the brainchild of students at Brigham Young University. It provides a full 3D immersive visualization setting that helps engineers look at specific environments and determine problems.
Here's how VuePod works: Aircraft or drones capture images as data points of an area. A computer stitches these images together to give an overall view of an area. For example, the system can look at an area prone to earthquakes. Once those images are ready in VuePod, users can go into the system with their 3D glasses and Wii controller and virtually fly over the area, seeing it from every angle.
This comes in especially handy when examining changes in the area. For example, let's say you have two sets of images of this area: perhaps one before an earthquake and one after an earthquake. With VuePod, engineers can examine damage more extensively and find any structural issues with buildings after the earthquake by seeing the changes with their own eyes.
Seeing the environment on what is essentially a 108-square-foot screen presents the entire environment for viewing.
"Our eyes and our brains are so amazing; we need to take full advantage of them," says civil engineering professor Dan Ames. "That's the value of this project: we're presenting more information for the human eyes to detect changes."
VuePod can also be used to monitor structures over time and see how events like earthquakes and weather affect buildings, highways and bridges.
Perhaps most impressive about VuePod is its cost. Similar systems cost about $10 million for building and maintaining. But VuePod only came in at around $30,000.
"Our question has been: How can we make this technology accessible?" says Ames. "We're trying to determine the threshold for getting the most function at the most affordable cost. Ultimately, the goal is to take an expensive tool and make it cheaper for an everyday engineering firm to use."
Ames and his students released the full schematics of their VuePod system in a paper published in the Journal of Computing in Civil Engineering. They welcome others to use their work and create something even better.