Enhancing scientific knowledge with stunning visuals: The LRZ opens its first LED CAVE

The Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) has modernised its Virtual Reality and Visualisation Centre (V2C). This is the first time that a CAVE, which is an installation for displaying content in virtual reality, has been built entirely with LED technology, and it is now going into operation.


The chamber chapel at Schloss Schleissheim is no longer allowed to be entered, it can be researched digitally in virtual reality. Photo: A. Podo/LRZ; partner: Corpus der barocken Deckenmalerei in Deutschland

Sharper images, brighter colours and higher resolution: The Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities (BAdW) has completed the technical modernisation of its Virtual Reality and Visualisation Centre (V2C) and installed light-emitting diodes (LED/Light-Emitting Diodes) in the CAVE Automatic Virtual Environment, or simply CAVE for short. The CAVE consists of 5 LED walls and is shaped like an open cube in which researchers can immerse themselves in simulations and move through them with all their senses as if they were in a world of their own: “The LED CAVE is one of the first, if not the first, of its kind to be built entirely with LED technology,” says Thomas Odaker (PhD), head of the V2C at the LRZ. “It offers researchers higher resolution and significantly improved image quality, and it is also more reliable and easier to use than the previous projector-based system”.

Using virtual reality to gain more knowledge

In many natural and life sciences, but also in art, architecture and archaeology, research results and simulation data have been presented in virtual reality (VR) for some time now in order to gain more information and insight: “Growing amounts of data not only form the basis for high-resolution simulations, but also enable detailed visualisations in almost all scientific disciplines. VR allows us to perceive, understand and analyse the basics of medical symptoms, molecular processes and natural phenomena or technology, buildings and art objects in a much more comprehensive way,” explains Prof. Dieter Kranzlmüller, head of the LRZ. “Our new CAVE makes it possible to present research results more effectively and it helps to deepen and refine scientific knowledge.” In the CAVE, researchers can also explore virtual worlds as a team and discuss their experiences directly.

The LRZ's LED CAVE replaces the previous rear-projection technology: its five displays are now 30 centimetres longer. The new CAVE consists of a total of 1,620 LED panels and 225 LED frames (cabinets), which can be more easily controlled by computers. Each wall has a resolution of 2400x2430 pixels, significantly more than the previous 1920x1920 pixels. The higher pixel density means that images are sharper and brighter, and moving around the CAVE or zooming in on a section of it works smoothly. The structure enables stereoscopic viewing at up to 60 frames per second for each eye. Combined with a latest-generation optical tracking system, it creates a homogeneous experience with realistic colours and extremely sharp image detail. For example, anyone moving through the visualisation of a simulation of the Earth's history, developed at the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMU) in Munich, will be able to discover the processes in the Earth’s mantle with razor-sharp clarity: "The immersion is not affected by any jerks or stutters when the viewer moves around in the CAVE or changes perspective to examine details more closely," explains Odaker, who also mentions practical benefits: “The LED CAVE is much easier to use, components are easier to replace and maintain, and the LED modules can be replaced in a few simple steps.”

How digital technology can bring past worlds back to life

The LRZ presented the modernised V2C with its CAVE and new possibilities to scientists and students in an open lab with science slams, familiar visualisations and new works: LED technology and its brilliance turn projects such as the Himmelsglobus (celestial globe) from the Bavarian digital cultural treasure Bavarikon into an impressive spatial spectacle. Using 3D scans from the Bavarian State Library, the LRZ specialists transferred the digital twin of the star and sky map from the late Middle Ages into VR. The three-dimensional, digital reconstruction of the villa of the temple chief Sîn-Nādā and his wife Nuṭṭuptum, which was created from various archaeological images in cooperation with the Department of Ancient Near Eastern Archaeology at the LMU, can also be walked through room by room in the LED CAVE and takes the viewer back to pre-Christian, ancient Babylonian times.


Profile LRZ CAVE

  • 1,620 LED panels
  • Resolution: 2400 x 2430 pixels
  • Pixel pitch: 1.25mm
  • Stereoscopic display with 120 frames per second. 60 images/second per eye
  • Optical tracking system by ART plus ARTTRACK6 cameras
  • 225 cabinets/LED frames
  • Approx. 3.25 km of cable
  • Installation: Kraftwerk Living Technologies, Wels/Austria

Impressions of the new CAVE


Explore art spaces in the CAVE. Photo: A. Podo / LRZ; partner: Corpus der barocken Deckenmalerei in Deutschland


Admire and discover the baroque splendor of the Kaisersaal in the Bamberg Residence. Photo: A. Podo / LRZ. Partner Corpus der barocken Deckenmalerei in Deutschland - Prof. Dr. Stephan Hoppe, illustrated architecture - Bernhard Strackenbroc, Deutsches Dokumentationszentrum für Kunstgeschichte –Bayerische Schlösserverwaltung (BSV), Bildarchiv Foto Marburg (DDK), Thomas Scheidt/Christian Stein


Understand the history of the earth and the formation of the continents. Photo: A. Podo / LRZ. Partner: Prof. Dr. Hans-Peter Bunge & Dr. Bernhard Schuberth (Geophysics LMU), Dr. Markus Wiedemann


How did the elite live in Old Babylonian times? This is impressively demonstrated
by the reconstruction of the villa for temple head Sîn-Nādā and his wife Nuṭṭuptum. Photo: A. Podo / LRZ; Partner: Prof. Dr. Adelheid Otto, Dr. Berthold Einwag LMU