Virtual applications reach out to real world

Aug 14, 2008

(PhysOrg.com) -- European researchers have developed a series of very clever tools to break through the bottlenecks stalling the widespread adoption of virtual reality. But the compelling applications designed for the system are the real stars.

Soon car designers will be able to see immediately the effects of their planned changes on a real car and architects will be able to perform a virtual tour in and around a planned building with a client. These are just two of the real-world applications promised by virtual and augmented reality.

But there are tremendous bottlenecks, in both hardware and software, to the deployment of advanced applications like these. Cost is one issue, and technical performance another, while many solutions are just too cumbersome for widespread use.

Reality, only better

The IMPROVE project was set up to break through these bottlenecks and foster acceptance of virtual reality in new business areas. The potential of augmented reality applications and tools is particularly promising.

Augmented reality consists of mixing real objects and landscapes with computer-generated images and designs, so an architect for example could see a virtual building on a real landscape, or auto designers could see how small changes could affect an existing car body design. It is reality, only better.

“We worked on head-mounted displays, improved tiled displays, rendering and streaming software, colour calibration techniques, collaboration and networking, and novel interaction systems,” explains Pedro Santos, coordinator with the IMPROVE project. “It was quite a broad research agenda for a STREP project.” (See story ‘Virtuality’ gets real).

Tight budgets

The team fulfilled its ambitious work agenda and tested the hardware and software, and chose two design-intensive domains to test their platform: architecture and automotive design. The two are a good fit.

Car manufacturers have the budgets to invest in very expensive equipment and are quick to adopt improved systems, while architectural companies could really use VR and AR systems more widely, but have much tighter budgets.

The IMPROVE team carefully surveyed potential users to establish exactly what functionality they required.

“The architects, wanted to be able to review a virtual rendition of a proposed building collaboratively and to test the impact of shadows, while the automakers wanted very high-quality imaging for surface inspection,” notes Santos.

In the architectural test, IMPROVE chose two review scenarios: in-house and onsite.

Virtual Sun

The in-house review allows a team to work on a design together using a Head Mounted Display (HMD) designed by IMPROVE with a see-through lens that can overlay a virtual image onto a real object or landscape. The building appears in three dimensions on a table, and designers can modify elements of the design, change the materials used and attach comments to the plan.

They can also see the building at different times of the day and even look at the impact of interior lighting on the building’s appearance.

Another application allows the client and an architect to walk around a real site and ‘see’ the virtual building from different angles. “The tests were successful, and the system performed well,” remarks Santos.

Virtual reality gets in gear

For the automotive sector, IMPROVE developed surface quality and car restyling applications. The surface quality review uses a large, tiled display and HMDs to study a proposed car design at full scale.

The IMPROVE team developed colour calibration tools to ensure the tiled display rendered colour accurately across all screens. The rendering software also allows High Dynamic Range imaging, which is more faithful to the real world. The system can apply diagnostic tools to the quality of the car’s surface, and add comments or simple sketches at critical points.

For restyling, the system uses a HMD with a real car to see the impact of virtual changes to the bodywork and styling. Materials can be changed, as can the lighting, to analyse the effect a new design element. The stylist can even sit inside a ‘real’ car and immediately see the impact of any changes, loading images of a new dashboard or even elements of a dashboard, for example. Finally, the stylist can annotate and comment on the design.

In all in day’s work

Innovative interface systems and sophisticated collaboration tools drive all these applications to make the overall system as flexible and adaptable as possible.

All of these systems can also be applied to other domains, and may lead to applications for video-gaming, consumer focus groups and many others.

It is an impressive list of achievements, and some of the work will be continued in two follow-on projects, Maximus and Cinespace. Many of the components developed within the project are already on their way to commercialisation.

“Most of the components will have direct commercial potential and many of them are a real advance on what is currently available,” concludes Santos.

The upshot is that virtual technologies are ready for real-world applications.

Provided by ICT Results

Explore further: UT Dallas professor to develop framework to protect computers' cores

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Making elastic cloud computing a reality

Apr 08, 2014

(Phys.org) —University of New South Wales researchers are using artificial intelligence to create a computer network capable of regulating its own consumption of public cloud services.

New avatars capable of laughing

Apr 04, 2014

Today's computer-based avatars lack one of our most deeply rooted human characteristics: laughter. Computer scientists have now teamed up with psychologists to give avatars the ability to laugh.

Recommended for you

User comments : 0

More news stories

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.

Health care site flagged in Heartbleed review

People with accounts on the enrollment website for President Barack Obama's signature health care law are being told to change their passwords following an administration-wide review of the government's vulnerability to the ...

A homemade solar lamp for developing countries

(Phys.org) —The solar lamp developed by the start-up LEDsafari is a more effective, safer, and less expensive form of illumination than the traditional oil lamp currently used by more than one billion people ...

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...