Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

One virtual step for man, one real leap for mankind

14.04.2008
Imagine being able to take a step back in time and walk through the streets of ancient Pompeii hours before the eruption of Vesuvius.

In April 2008, European researchers will demonstrate that walking through virtual environments is set to be a reality.

“In the virtual environment you have flight simulators, car simulators, but the most natural way of locomotion for humans is walking and this was practically impossible,” says Marc Ernst, the coordinator of the CyberWalk project at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics.

To make virtual walking a reality, the CyberWalk researchers had to address five key issues: providing a surface to walk on, controlling the surface in a way that minimised forces on the user, developing a non-intrusive tracking system, displaying a high-quality visualisation, and ensuring a natural human perception of the virtual environment.

This month, at a special workshop in Tuebingen, Germany, the EU-funded researchers will demonstrate their treadmill allowing unconstrained walking in all directions (omni-directional) through large-scale virtual environments.

“Walking through a virtual city was impossible before,” Ernst says. “We are the first to demonstrate that you can walk through a virtual city or any type of extended environment.”

Be natural
Several attempts have been made to develop omni-directional treadmills, with Japanese researchers producing prototypes, and a group in the USA developing a smaller treadmill for military use. Neither allow for truly natural walking and immersion in a virtual environment.

“A key feature is that you need a relatively large treadmill to simulate natural walking,” explains Ernst. “The one that will be demonstrated is 6m by 6m, with an active walking area of 4.5m by 4.5m.”

According to Ernst, this is the minimum size necessary for 'natural walking'.

The treadmill, or CyberCarpet, incorporates several new mechanical solutions, which ensure smooth and safe operation. The key to the CyberCarpet is a platform with a big chain drive. The chain elements are made of conventional treadmills.

The chain moves in one direction whereas the movement direction of the belts is orthogonal to that. Summing the two directions of the chain and the belts provides the omni-directional actuation principle and so the treadmill motion opposing the motion of the walker can be in any direction.

“Theoretically there is no limit to the size of treadmill. In fact, the bigger the better,” says Ernst. “But practicalities dictate that the size of the CyberCarpet is limited to the size of the room, the mechanical constraints of the construction and the money you have to spend.”

To track the walker, CyberCarpet wanted to dispense with the Hollywood-style suits covered in reflective marker balls. Its unique system uses cameras to track the position and posture of the individual. This helps control the velocity of the treadmill and interactions with the virtual environment.

Visualising the virtual environment is achieved courtesy of a commercial head-mounted display, which does have markers on it, says Ernst, because you “simply need a fast and accurate system”.

Real-life applications for virtual reality
The possibility of walking through large virtual environments has already received a lot of attention and captured the public’s attention. One project partner, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETHZ) developed the CityEngine, developed a software package for quickly creating large-scale virtual environments in particular cities, in various degrees of detail.

Combining the CityEngine with CyberWalk will allow people to go beyond strolling through the streets of ancient Pompeii and Rome. Architects, for example, could transport customers into the future, and allow them to walk through buildings even before they have been built.

ETHZ is considering exploiting CityEngine as a tool for the gaming industry. Talks with some game production houses are already underway.

Beyond the obvious use in entertainment, the achievements of the CyberWalk project could extend to training for firemen in dangerous scenarios, while keeping them well out of harm’s way. It could also help with medical rehabilitation for people after a stroke, people with Parkinson’s disease, or to help them overcome phobias.

The developments have also created exciting new academic possibilities for research into behavioural science and the biomechanics of human locomotion.

But the showcase demonstration is pure escapism, bringing Pompeii to life again after nearly two millennia.

Ahmed ElAmin | alfa
Further information:
http://cordis.europa.eu/ictresults/index.cfm/section/news/tpl/article/BrowsingType/Features/ID/89667

More articles from Information Technology:

nachricht Five developments for improved data exploitation
19.04.2017 | Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Künstliche Intelligenz GmbH, DFKI

nachricht Smart Manual Workstations Deliver More Flexible Production
04.04.2017 | Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Künstliche Intelligenz GmbH, DFKI

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Scientist invents way to trigger artificial photosynthesis to clean air

26.04.2017 | Materials Sciences

Ammonium nitrogen input increases the synthesis of anticarcinogenic compounds in broccoli

26.04.2017 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

SwRI-led team discovers lull in Mars' giant impact history

26.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>