About KeckCAVES

The KeckCAVES at UC Davis is a unique visualization collaboration that is developing software to interact with three-dimensional data in real-time – moving, rotating, coloring, and manipulating datasets with an ease and speed unobtainable even in other 3D CAVE environments. The KeckCAVES initiated as a collaboration among earth scientists and computer scientists focused on co-developing visualization techniques to improve scientific interpretations of complicated data sets and model results. It has expanded through the years and provides an environment for collaborative research, teaching, education, and mentoring in the use of interactive visualization methods for understanding data and computational models from any area of inquiry. Its core facility is a CAVE, which consists of three walls and floor with stereoscopic displays providing full 3D images, head-tracking to render perfect stereo for the tracked viewer, and a set of tracked input devices for in-depth interaction with the visualizations. The software also runs on linux/unix/OSX desktops, 3D TVs, GeoWalls, and other systems, making it widely useable.


The KeckCAVES centerpiece is a four-sided Mechdyne CAVE, an immersive visualization environment consisting of three 10' x 8' walls and a 10' x 8' floor. Stereoscopic images are projected onto all four surfaces using one 3-chip DLP projector (Christie Mirage S+4K) each. A user perceives a seamless three-dimensional environment that can be explored by manipulating data within the 10' x 10' x 8' CAVE. A wireless 3D position tracking system (Intersense IS-900) synchronizes the 3D display with the position and orientation of a user's head and allows him or her to interact with the virtual environment in an intuitive and efficient fashion using a position-tracked handheld wand with six buttons and a joystick, data gloves, and other devices.

The CAVE is driven by a cluster of 6 high-end graphics workstations running Linux and the custom virtual reality operating system Vrui. A head node with an Intel Core i7-870 CPU at 2.9GHz, 8GB of main memory, and 12TB of RAID disk storage controls the system, while the images for the projection are generated by four render nodes, each with an Intel Core i7-920 CPU at 2.67GHz, 6GB of main memory, and an Nvidia Quadro FX 5800G 3D graphics card. An additional audio node generates spatial sound using four speakers mounted at the corners of the CAVE enclosure. The cluster nodes are connected using two parallel Gigabit Ethernet networks, and the entire system is connected to campus high-performance computing systems.

In addition to the main CAVE, KeckCAVES also maintains several smaller low-cost virtual reality environments used as testbeds for deployment of virtual reality hardware to a larger user population. Those include several systems based on 3D TVs, as well as several current-generation commodity VR head-mounted displays.


For additional information, please contact us: spelunker [at] keckcaves [dot] org

Follow current members and alumni of the KeckCAVES team


  • @keckcaves
  • @arsandbox
  • @okreylos
  • @sumnerd
  • @mikeoskin
  • @louisekellogg
  • @TTremblingEarth
  • @carlye_peterson

Youtube channels



KeckCAVES is often featured in the news.

Follow KeckCAVES on Twitter: www.twitter.com/keckcaves

Movies are available on the KeckCAVES YouTube channel as well as Oliver's and CrustaMars' channels.


The KeckCAVES was established in 2004 by a gift from the W. M. Keck Foundation. With matching support from the University of California, Davis, the Keck Foundation gift enabled us to acquire and construct the FakeSpace (now Mechdyne) CAVE and other hardware. This grant also supported software development efforts. The CAVE became operational in March, 2005.

In 2008, the KeckCAVES team was awarded a grant entitled CI-TEAM Implementation Project: Enabling Interactive Visual Exploration and Remote Collaboration for the Geosciences and Physical Sciences, from the NSF program CI-TEAM. The grant supports development of interdisciplinary environments that prepare students in the geosciences, computer science, science and technology studies, anthropology, and physics for successful technical careers. We engage students in interdisciplinary teams to jointly develop, use, and disseminate cyber-infrastructure (CI) tools and techniques using virtual reality and scientific visualization for research and education.

In 2009, the KeckCAVES moved to its new location in the UC Davis Earth and Physical Sciences building.

In 2012, the KeckCAVES team was awarded a CI-TEAM award entitled CI-TEAM Impl: Dynamic Interdisciplinary Research Environment to Engage and Develop a Cyber-Ready Workforce in the Geosciences, Social Sciences, and Computer Sciences. See the project website for more information and products.


Funding for the KeckCAVES and for research and education using the KeckCAVES has been provided by the W. M. Keck Foundation, the National Science Foundation through CI-TEAM awards OAC-1135588 and OAC-1135588, and CDI award OIA-1125422, and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.