Science communication is key for sharing research discoveries to a wide audience. In this talk, we will present VIRUP, The Virtual Reality Universe Project, a brand new software developed at the Laboratory of Astrophysic of EPFL, that provides the most modern dynamical view of our Universe through one of the cutting-edge communication techniques : Virtual Reality (VR).
VIRUP allows users to travel through space and time, ranging from the artificial satellites orbiting the Earth to the outer confines of the Universe. Journeys in this VR environment help to understand the hierarchical organization of our universe at different scales as well as developing intuitions for astrophysical processes. In addition to standard VR systems like gamer headsets, VIRUP is compatible with specific immersion systems like 360-panorama, half-caves or 180-domes. VIRUP has also recently been used to create a twenty minute-long documentary named: Archaeology of Light.
Yves Revaz is a senior scientist at LASTRO/EPFL. After successful studies in physics at EPFL, he completed his PhD entitled: "Dynamics of external regions of spiral galaxies and constraints on the dark matter", at the Geneva Observatory in the galactic dynamics group of Prof. D. Pfenniger. He then moved to the Paris Observatory to work at the LERMA (Laboratory for Studies of Radiation and Matter in Astrophysics) with Prof. F. Combes on the understanding of cooling flows in galaxy clusters. He joined LASTRO at EPFL in 2007, where he developed a new TreePM/SPH chemo-dynamical code called GEAR as well as the pNbody python library, a parallelized toolbox designed to manipulate large N-body systems.
Relying on those tools, he studied the chemical evolution of galaxies. His current main research focuses on the evolution of dwarf spheroidal galaxies and their link with cosmology.
Beside his research Yves Revaz also led the development of VIRUP, an interactive virtual reality (VR) environment that lets anyone discover the cosmos through observed and simulated data. Between 2020 and 2021, he directed the realization of two films (in 2D, 3D, 180-3D and 360-3D) fully based on VIRUP. A short movie presenting the most complete 3D map of the Universe as observed by the eBOSS survey and a 21 minutes-long documentary entitled Archaeology of Light, where we chart out a journey throughout the various scales of the Universe.
Florian Cabot is a software engineer at SCITAS/EPFL. He studied computer science at the University of Geneva. His passion for astrophysics made him complete his Msc with a project on Virtual Reality exoplanetary data visualization at the Geneva Observatory in 2018. He met Yves Revaz at the Observatory with whom he started the VIRUP project. He developed this project from scratch, writing all the tools needed to do VR rendering and interaction with large amounts of data. He ported the project to different projection systems at the Experimental Museology lab, and directed and scripted the two movies made with VIRUP.
He moved this year to the SCITAS computing center to do scientific visualization both for the Square Kilometer Array project in collaboration with LASTRO and the EUROFusion consortium in collaboration with the Swiss Plasma Center.