NAVE: A Low Cost Spatially Immersive Display System (1998-2000)

From January through April 1999 I worked with Dr. Larry Hodges, Dr. Julian Flores, Carlos Jensen, Jeff Wilson, and Dave Gotz in building and designing the NAVE spatially immersive display system.  In the tradition of the original CAVE display, the name NAVE is a recursive acronym which stands for NAVE Automatic Virtual Environment.  The name also has an architectural context, a nave is the main central part of a cruciform church building, designed to focus a person’s attention both upward and into the structure.  NAVE can also be an acronym that summarizes its primary objective (Non-expensive Automatic Virtual Environment).

As demonstrated by the popularity of the CAVE and the Virtual Workbench products, there was a great amount of interest in projected stereoscopic environments as an alternative to head-mounted displays.  One of the primary obstacles to their widespread use was cost.

The development goal of the NAVE project was to create a low-cost, PC-driven, multi-screen, multi-user, stereoscopic, multi-sensory virtual environment that preserves many of the desirable elements of the original CAVE environment but that could be built at a fraction of the cost of a CAVE.  The first NAVE system was built at a total hardware cost of approximately $60,000 USD (1999), including projectors, screens, audio, computers, and structural materials.

The NAVE design is a three screen environment. Each screen is eight feet wide by six feet in height. The two side screens are positioned at 120 degree angles to the main central screen to give a three-sided display area that is sixteen feet wide and approximately seven feet deep. In the first system. imagery for each screen was generated on a 500 MHz PC with a NVIDIA TNT 3D  graphics card and rear projected in stereo.  A fourth PC was used to coordinate the three screens and to provide audio output.  The user experienced the NAVE while seated in a Thunderseat audio tactile chair wearing passive stereo glasses.  Software support for the NAVE was based on the Simple Virtual Environments (SVE) Toolkit.

The inaugural project for the NAVE was Santiago 2000, a collaborative effort between Georgia Tech’s Virtual Environments Group and the Technological Research Institute of the University of Santiago de Compostela.  During the late spring and summer of 1999, I worked in Spain assisting a group developing software and hardware for a NAVE system  to demonstrate the Santiago 2000 virtual city during the Xacobeo 1999 celebrations and events related to Santiago´s selection as one of the European Union´s nine cultural capitals for the year 2000.

This project was presented as a technical sketch at the 2000 ACM SIGGRAPH Conference.

Pair, Jarrell, Carlos Jensen, Julian Flores, Jeff Wilson, Larry Hodges, and Dave Gotz. “The NAVE: Design and Implementation of a Non-Expensive Immersive Virtual Environment.” Technical sketch in SIGGRAPH 2000 Conference Abstracts and Applications, ACM Press, August 2000, pp 238. Download PDF

NAVE Immersive Display Demonstration Video

Additional NAVE Systems


Since 1999, A number of other groups including the two below have used the NAVE design to implement cost effective immersive display systems.

NAVE Immersive Display Design Resources