• virtual reality;
  • anatomical atlas;
  • ontology;
  • gene expression;
  • Java 3D


The authors have created a software system called the CAVEman, for the visual integration and exploration of heterogeneous anatomical and biomedical data. The CAVEman can be applied for both education and research tasks. The main component of the system is a three-dimensional digital atlas of the adult male human anatomy, structured according to the nomenclature of Terminologia Anatomica. The underlying data-indexing mechanism uses standard ontologies to map a range of biomedical data types onto the atlas. The CAVEman system is now used to visualize genetic processes in the context of the human anatomy and to facilitate visual exploration of the data. Through the use of Java™ software, the atlas-based system is portable to virtually any computer environment, including personal computers and workstations. Existing Java tools for biomedical data analysis have been incorporated into the system. The affordability of virtual-reality installations has increased dramatically over the last several years. This creates new opportunities for educational scenarios that model important processes in a patient's body, including gene expression patterns, metabolic activity, the effects of interventions such as drug treatments, and eventually surgical simulations. Anat Sci Ed 1:10–18, 2008. © 2007 American Association of Anatomists.