Traditional war room collaboration inspires a particular image. Flipcharts, drawings, schematics, and printouts are pinned to the walls.  Sticky notes with details are taped to work artifacts and moved about as ideas evolve. With all stakeholders and knowledge experts in one room, questions are immediately answered and the team breaks into small specialty groups to divide and conquer the problem (Leigh, Johnson, Park, Nayak, Singh, Chowdhry 2002). Yet, roadblocks remain for completely optimized productivity within war room spaces.

Although audiovisual and information technologies (AV/IT) found in today’s conference rooms enhance project team collaboration, users become frustrated when they can’t see all work artifacts and supporting materials or coordinate with teammates efficiently. Even organizations that take advantage of advanced technology solutions can still leave war room teams struggling to understand data if the solution does not provide a streamlined work environment. The most forward-thinking organizations drive their collaboration space decisions based on user and company needs.

Challenges with Co-Location and Conference Room Collaboration

Organizations encourage co-location because they understand the challenge of working with remote teammates. Despite the ease of online communication—instant messaging, email and teleconferencing—the physically further away teammates are, the less they communicate with each other. This doesn’t just apply throughout global campuses – a distance of 30 meters is equivalent to being truly remote (Teasley, Covi, Krishnan, Olson 2000).

Compounding the problem, conference rooms are shrinking. A study done by Wainhouse Research shows that the number of large conference rooms is decreasing while small and medium-sized conference rooms will increase in the future (Haskins, Nilssen, Davis 2013). In addition, meeting rooms can become double-booked, requiring teammates to remove notes and artifacts only to repost in a different room or at a later time, severely impacting time efficiencies, spatiality referencing, and collaboration focus.

Many organizations leverage standard conference room technology to brainstorm company challenges, such as drawing or writing out concepts on whiteboard space before transferring material to a desktop environment. However, teams have limited ways to convert or annotate ideas on their digital copies. In one study, frustrated users desired to utilize more advanced technologies, such as electronic surfaces, to support their work (Teasley et al 2000).

Immersive Visualization as a War Room Solution

Many organizations have taken innovative steps in harnessing advanced technology solutions for 3D or big data visualization to enhance their war-room environments. Organizations with 3D spaces—such as a CAVE or Head Mounted Displays (HMD)—run simulations, view big data, or review designs to support their projects. Activities that require large amounts of textual or visual information—such as shared artifacts, supporting materials, and important applications—benefit from virtual environments or large 2D video walls.

However, CAVE or HMD solutions can limit collaboration opportunities because they are not optimal working environments:

  • Large project teams rarely fit within a CAVE simultaneously and they do not have the same 3D experience. Many HMD users are unable to see or interact directly with each other.
  • Although the information viewed within an immersive display is valuable to a project team, the originating information to reference and provide additional context is missing
  • Users are limited in their ability to take notes or multitask with contextual information on laptops, tablets, or even paper
  • Inactive applications better suited for 2D, such as spreadsheets, graphs, or documents, do not typically work well within a 3D environment

Because immersive 3D and flat wall 2D displays have very different use cases, many organizations only have one technology solution. Those that do have both immersive and flat wall displays rarely co-locate the technology in a single space to provide seamless collaboration. In situations where war room teams want attributes found in both traditional conference rooms and immersive solutions, a hybrid environment is a right choice.

The Best of Both Worlds: Mixed Media Hybrid Environments

At the intersection of two-dimensional war room space and immersive 3D environments, mixed media (2D/3D) solutions surpass even the most demanding project requirements. These hybrid systems—capable of presenting both 2D and 3D information simultaneously—render large volumes of data while simultaneously enabling visualization and interaction (Reda, Febretti, Knoll, Aurisano, Leigh, Johnson, Papka, Hereld 2013). A workspace comfortable enough to resemble a collaboration room while providing virtual capabilities to analyze vast amounts of data creates a truly collaborative environment:

  • Multiple co-located teammates comfortably analyze and interpret data in an open and inviting space (Reda et al. 2013)
  • Project teams find and compare information up to twice as fast, resulting in less frustration and more confidence in ideas (Ball and North 2005)
  • Users more easily capture knowledge, record activities, and brainstorm (Forminykh, Prasolova-Forland, Morosov, Smorkalov, Divitini 2014)
  • Individuals and teams cognitively “make sense” of their tasks by enhancing spatial memory, enabling physical navigation, remembering details with glances, and rapidly analyzing based on rich content (Andrews, Endert, North 2010)

The CAVE2, designed by the Electronic Visualization Laboratory (EVL) at the University of Chicago-Illinois, was created to augment the war room experience. The CAVE2 provides project teams a place to comfortably and easily collaborate on their most challenging problems while utilizing all their data – from 3D simulations to 2D information. Users switch between 3D Fully Immersive mode, 2D Standard Display mode, and Hybrid to independently control both 2D and 3D. Instead of working on whiteboards, transferring to desktops, moving the project team to an immersive space, and other time-consuming steps, teams work with multiple data sources to see all their information simultaneously.

The CAVE2 Guides Teams Toward Solutions

According to Andrew Johnson, the Director of Research at EVL, the inspiration behind the CAVE2 was to build a space that was a truly usable hybrid 2D/3D mixed media environment. With the goal of creating a digital project room, the team at EVL wanted to surround a project team with the multiple data sources needed to understand and solve a problem. While immersive spaces and tiled wall displays each had their own benefits, a hybrid environment brought together the best of both worlds:

  • Surround 3D with head and hand tracking for all users
  • High color-fidelity and contrast to truly understand differences in data
  • The comfortable work environment for project teams to stay in all-day
  • Easy to share content
  • Multiple people can work together simultaneously
  • Naturally forming groups to solve specialized pieces to a larger problem
  • Easy note capture to make changes during the collaboration session (Johnson 2014)

This “war room of the future” vision isn’t simply rooted in technology. The true reason the CAVE2 is set apart is due to how people interact in collaborative spaces. “It’s not just about putting people in the room to get work done,” says Johnson. “It’s also about tables, mugs, and lunch, and living in the data. Living in these multiple representations to be this war room of the future.” (Johnson 2014).
The CAVE2 is a near-seamless, 320-degree, panoramic environment with visuals nearly matching human visual acuity. combined with a surround-sound audio system and optical tracking systems, the CAVE2 immerses participants in a life-like experience. As the only licensed integrator for the CAVE2, Mechdyne Corporation has supported the most forward-thinking organizations by harnessing the power of the hybrid environment. No matter if an organization is enhancing research and learning opportunities, reviewing designs, evaluating big datasets to make critical decisions, or testing simulations, the CAVE2 catalyzes dynamic group work and data visualization in multiple ways simultaneously.

“The CAVE2 fosters a truly collaborative, comfortable environment,” says James Gruening, Mechdyne senior vice president. “It combines the benefits of immersive, 3D simulations with information-rich data. As a result, our clients have been able to make better, more precise decisions.”

Mechdyne is a broad-based technology provider specializing in AV and IT technologies, visualization and software solutions, immersive technologies, and technical support services. With only a handful of CAVE2 installations in the world, Mechdyne works closely with our clients to ensure the CAVE2 truly functions as the most valuable and impressive war room.


  • Andrews C., Endert A., North, C. (2010). Space to think: large high-resolution displays for sensemaking. Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, 55-64.
  • Ball, R., North, C. (2005). Effects of tiled high-resolution display on basic visualization and navigation tasks. Center for Human-Computer Interaction. Late-Breaking Results: Short Talks, 1196-1199.
  • Forminykh M., Prasolova-Forland, E., Morozov M., Smorkalov A., Divitini M. (2014). Facilitating creative collaborative activities with dedicated tools in a 3D virtual world. First KES International Conference on Smart Technology-based Education and Training., Chania, Greece.
  • Haskins, B., Nilssen, A., and Davis, A. (2013). The evolution of the conference room and the technology behind it. Wainhouse Research, Whitepaper
  • Johnson, A. (2014). Andrew Johnson presentation: Mechdyne higher education conference
  • Leigh, J., Johnson, A., Park, K., Nayak, A., Singh., R, Chowdhry, V., DeFanta, T. (2002). Amplified collaboration environments. VizGrid Symposium, Tokyo.
  • Reda, K., Febretti A., Knoll A., Aurisano J., Leigh J., Johnson A., Papka M., Hereld M. (2013). Visualizing large, heterogeneous data in hybrid-reality environments. IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications, Big-Data Visualization (4), 38-48.


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