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"Suspension of disbelief is a fundamental part of the effective use of a virtual reality Interface. Until we can ignore the interface and concentrate on the application, virtual reality will remain a novel experience instead of a serious visualization tool."

Diagram of the CAVE virtual reality system

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Daniel Sandin | CAVE <1992>

Media artist Daniel Sandin and engineer Thomas DeFanti joined the Electronic Visualization Laboratory at the University of Illinois, Chicago during the 1970s, where their research in electronic visualization culminated in 1991 with the design and construction of the CAVE (Cave Automatic Virtual Environment).

The suspension of disbelief, so critical to the overall effect of virtual reality, is enhanced by the specific qualities of the CAVE's interface, which is, in fact, a small room of about three cubic meters. After entering the room, the user finds himself surrounded by projected images that are seamlessly synchronized on three walls, as well as on the floor. It is like stepping onto the stage of a virtual theater. The immersive experience of the CAVE was intended as an allusion to Plato's cave; its multiple screens and surround-sound audio evoke the metaphor of a shadowy representation of reality, suggesting how perception is always filtered through the mind's veil of illusion.

Unlike other systems of virtual reality such as Scott Fisher's VIEW, the properties of the CAVE are enhanced by the interplay between the real and the virtual. The CAVE immersant does not experience disembodiment, but rather is viscerally aware of his or her physical presence "on stage" amidst the animated imagery and orchestrated sound.