Virtual reality gets real

April 13, 2006
Virtual reality gets real

Creating close to real-life virtual reality (VR) experiences has proven to be costly and has had rather poor results. In response, a European research team has explored how exploiting visual and auditory illusions can possibly lead to low-cost virtual reality simulators of the future.

Nowadays virtual reality is used within a wide range of areas such as medicine and the car manufacturing industry. However, due to problems with cost and quality, the technology has not yet reached a wider market.

Instead of trying to simulate the sense of the person’s motion by physically moving the person, which often causes motion sickness, the Swedish-German POEMS project, used a perceptually-oriented approach towards self-motion simulation. Thanks to funding under the European Commission’s Future and Emerging Technologies initiative of the IST programme, their work and findings resulted in a simulator prototype, presented at the 8th International Presence Conference, held in London 2005.

At the event a group of 20 participants tested the prototype simulating the market place in Tübingen, Germany. Although seated, with headphones and a screen in front of them, participants got the distinct feeling of moving as the image on the screen in front of them turned around the square.

Basically the simulator exploits a vection illusion of the brain, which makes us believe we are moving when actually we are stationary. The same can be experienced, for instance, when you are stopped at a traffic light in your car and the car next to you edges forward. Your brain interprets this peripheral visual information as though you are moving backwards.

To enhance the illusion and achieve a higher perceptual realism, acoustics was added to the visual impression. Stationary audio sources, like a fountain and church bells, shifted from ear to ear when performing the virtual turn around the square, strengthening the feeling of movement, Dr Pontus Larsson from Chalmers University in Gothenburg, Sweden explains.

“For the acoustics we found that realistic sounds are more effective than synthetic [sounds] and likewise stationary sources, such as church bells, are more effective than moving sources such as the sound of a car,” Larsson says.

“One of the findings in testing the simulator was that participants experienced a slight delay in motion. We are now working on reducing this to zero,” explains Dr Bernhard Riecke, the POEMS project coordinator for the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics. “None of the participants in the test, however, reported any motion sickness and even in other tests we have not registered any discomfort.”

Using sensory illusions in virtual reality proved successful in creating a state of presence and motion as well as being cost-effective and efficient, Riecke explains. It competes well with more expensive simulators using motion-platforms, which from earlier research have shown not to significantly add to the experience of motion.

Although the simulator built by POEMS is a proof-of-concept only and further research is needed, since it ended in December 2005, the project has engaged in further developments towards what in the end could become a commercial product.

“We are currently trying to get new partners into the boat and are negotiating with people from The Netherlands, Britain and Germany,” he says. The aim is to build on the findings from POEMS and develop a prototype that includes physical motion. Riecke envisages that such a low-cost simulator, in the future, would allow wider use in the gaming and entertainment industry as well as architectural markets.

Source: IST Results

Explore further: MekaMon robot from Reach Robotics is now ready for battle

Related Stories

MekaMon robot from Reach Robotics is now ready for battle

November 20, 2017

(Tech Xplore)—Talk about game-changing robots. A UK team have created a robot weighing about 2.2 pounds that you just take out of the box and proceed to put together with an easy setup, to unleash it into play either in ...

ANYmal takes the elevator instead of stairs (you showoff)

November 9, 2017

(Tech Xplore)—So what is the latest quadruped gee-whiz from those who learned serious ropes at ETH-Zurich? ANYmal, a quadrupedal robot, is now using an elevator. The Robotic Systems Lab video makes you wonder if you are ...

Startup to train robots like puppets

November 8, 2017

Robots today must be programmed by writing computer code, but imagine donning a VR headset and virtually guiding a robot through a task, like you would move the arms of a puppet, and then letting the robot take it from there.

Battery innovations could spread renewable energy

October 23, 2017

In Edmond Hamilton's 1940 novella Revolt On The Tenth World, the science fiction author describes "solid power … the most super-valuable substance in the Solar System." Solid power is "compressed energy 'frozen' by temporary ...

Recommended for you

Energy-saving LEDs boost light pollution worldwide

November 22, 2017

They were supposed to bring about an energy revolution—but the popularity of LED lights is driving an increase in light pollution worldwide, with dire consequences for human and animal health, researchers said Wednesday.

How the Earth stops high-energy neutrinos in their tracks

November 22, 2017

Neutrinos are abundant subatomic particles that are famous for passing through anything and everything, only very rarely interacting with matter. About 100 trillion neutrinos pass through your body every second. Now, scientists ...

Mysterious deep-Earth seismic signature explained

November 22, 2017

New research on oxygen and iron chemistry under the extreme conditions found deep inside the Earth could explain a longstanding seismic mystery called ultralow velocity zones. Published in Nature, the findings could have ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.