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UC Merced Rides a New WAVE of Technology

Students participating in research at higher education institutions have been known to immerse themselves in their work.

UC Merced’s new WAVE system will help students take that to a new level.

The university’s installation of its virtual reality WAVE — a cutting-edge Virtual Reality (VR) system that allows for immersive, large-scale exploration and research — is making waves across the campus and the state’s higher education system.

WAVE stands for Wide-Area Visualization Environment. The system features 4K 3D TVs placed in a half-pipe cluster, driven by 30 state-of-the-art GTX 1080 graphics cards. The system provides a profound sense of immersion, allowing students and faculty to peer into complexity in a virtual reality space.

The system allows digital exploration of places of interests regardless of location, scale and time. You can think of it as a time machine on a magic carpet at any scale. It’s also like as a room-sized IMAX theater, allowing researchers and students to conduct research in ways they’ve never been able to before.

As part of the Pacific Research Platform — a cutting-edge research infrastructure — the system will allow UC Merced instructors and researchers to access visualizations from similar installations around the world.

The WAVE resides in the Digital Humanities Lab, which makes it unique. Other installations like it are located in engineering or computer science spaces. The Merced WAVE will provide new tools to Digital Humanities researchers eager to apply VR technology to their domains. It’s the kind of innovation in which UC Merced prides itself.

The WAVE will be a hub of innovation and collaboration, allowing UC Merced faculty and students to connect to the world in unique ways.

The system is built on commodity PCs and consumer electronics running mostly Open Source, is modular and upgradable. It’s also relatively inexpensive to install and maintain.

WAVE is putting UC Merced on the map, and connecting the university’s students and researchers to a whole new world.