Issue 28



7 May 2015


The world’s first full-scale (50-feet wide x 40-feet long x 32-feet high) big data exploration facility opened at Virginia Tech on January 30, 2015. Known as the Cube, this four-storey, US$15m theatre and high-tech laboratory uses powerful motion capture and visual environment technologies, specialised acoustics, real-time audiovisual rendering and high-performing computers to create a virtual environment laboratory that allows scientists to model and explore data in ‘sonified’, virtual form with acoustics, audiovisual, and 3D audio systems conceived and designed by Arup.

This environment can also be used by composers and other artists to explore the creative discipline of spatial sound. In fact, according to Benjamin Knapp, Ph.D., director of ICAT, the Cube was initially conceived as a performance space and then reimagined as an incredibly immersive environment, where groups can explore virtual worlds and data of any kind. “Certainly unique to the Cube is the combination of ambisonic and wavefield synthesis (WFS) and immersive visual environments, but this is one of the few environments where the virtual experience can be a shared experience,” Knapp said. “I am very excited by the array of immersive audio, immersive video projects that we have already lined up for this space.”

Terence Caulkins, acoustic and audio visual consultant at Arup elaborates: “This space is unique in its raw number of audio channels and also the height of the space, allowing scientists to do more cross-discipline research and experience phenomena quickly from different perspectives. Our challenge was to make the space extremely quiet and neutral, so we could put the footprint of another acoustical space on top of it and then to place a layer of 3D audio on top of that.”

The Cube features an array of technologies, including virtual and augmented reality (head-mounted display and tablet interaction interface); wavefield synthesis and highly directional sound interaction; synchronised data capture, including information retrieval motion capture; audio/video, physiological and interaction signals; and real-time audiovisual rendering. The sound system comprises 124 x JBL SCS8 spatially cued surround coaxial eight-inch loudspeakers wrapped around the walls and ceiling of the Cube in various resolutions. The JBL SCS8 is a wide coverage loudspeaker that can be positioned in any number of ways and was developed for spatial sound installations. At the backbone of the routing system are three BSS BLU 806 networked signal processors with Dante and BLU Link connectivity.


Jands (JBL, BSS): (02) 9582 0909 or


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Issue 28