Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

‘Virtuality’ gets real

13.08.2008
Up to now virtual reality has proved cumbersome as a design tool, but European researchers are finalising a system that brings ‘virtuality’ to the wider world.

Virtual reality (VR) is a powerful tool, but its true potential remains unrealised. Applications mixing the virtual and real worlds, called mixed or augmented reality (AR), are weak. There are few, reliable systems, and what exists are very expensive. Collaboration is limited and still relatively unsophisticated. And the state of the art is anchored to the desktop or multi-tiled, or multi-screen, displays. Both are fixed solutions.

But VR and AR could do so much more. They could enable onsite sketching of a proposed building design, to reveal the real-world impact on the cityscape, or allow teams to review, annotate and amend proposed and existing car designs. The technology could enable engineers and designers to collaborate with other, distant teams. And it could pave the way even for consumers to contribute to production of better, more successful products.

There are bottlenecks, however, and the IMPROVE project began life with the remit to break through them. “We worked on head-mounted displays, improved tiled displays, rendering and streaming software, colour calibration techniques, collaboration and networking, and novel interaction systems,” notes Pedro Santos, coordinator of the EU-funded project. It was quite a broad research agenda for a STREP project, he admits.

High-performance, head-mounted displays

The IMPROVE project really created a series of hardware and software innovations that, once combined, offer a full-specification VR and AR platform. But all of these individual innovations are useful on their own, and could be potentially commercialised as standalone products.

The Head Mounted Display (HMD), for example, offers a see-through lens that can overlay virtual images onto a real object or landscape, like a building or car.

The project developed three prototypes – two wearable and one handheld – that offer good resolution.

“Better yet, the handheld model can also block out daylight, so you don’t get the usual problem of sunlight washing out the image. It is a breakthrough, and the daylight-blocking HMD will feature this month at Siggraph 2008 in Los Angeles,” Santos remarks. Siggraph is the industry conference for computer graphics and interactive technologies.

IMPROVE also developed breakthrough video-streaming technology that offers high-quality stereoscopic streaming across a mobile network. “It takes a lot of processing power to render a virtual image onto a real landscape, mobile device CPUs cannot really cope. We developed a video-streaming protocol that allows a desktop to perform the rendering, but then streams a compressed signal across wireless networks,” explains Santos.

Rendering software

The platform’s rendering software itself marked another breakthrough. It takes images from high-dynamic range cameras, which offer a range of exposures on a single image, to calculate realistic reflections, shadows and light-intensity levels. It allows visualisation of a model from any direction in real time, after pre-processing.

“We are already in discussion with some companies about commercial opportunities for the rendering platform,” Santos reveals.

The team also developed marker and marker-less tracking systems. The first uses reflective markers to compute the position of real objects in a fixed reference frame. It allows the system to plot the shape of an object accurately.

Marker-less tracking is even cleverer. “In contrast to marker-based tracking, where we track labels with patterns on it, in marker-less tracking we detect feature points in real scenes and compare current images from a camera to calibrated reference images of the same scene to calculate the current position of a user,” explains Santos.

IMPROVE also developed innovative interaction systems for working with AR and VR. IMMIVIEW supports multi-modal, multi-user interaction, while IVIEW is a collaborative system for design sessions.

Finally, a colour-calibration technique developed by the IMPROVE team helps ensure that tiled banks of high-definition screens are all rendering colours faithfully. “You get big calibration problems with projectors on multi-tiled displays, because projectors vary, or projector bulbs deteriorate at different rates. It affects image quality, but our calibration-tool ensures faithful colour across the multiple screens.”

Design-intensive applications

Together, these components make up a complete VR and AR platform that enable functional applications required in the real world. The project performed studies with end-users to see what those applications should be.

The project chose two design-intensive domains to test their platform, architecture and automotive design. The two are a good fit. Car manufacturers can afford 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 mix of applications meant we had to develop low-cost but high-performance systems. The tests were successful, and the system performed well,” says Santos. (See follow-up story: ‘Virtual applications reach out to real world’.)

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.

“It is unlikely that the platform will be commercialised as one product, but most of the components will have direct commercial potential and many of them are a real advance on what is currently available,” notes Santos.

The rendering software, the video streaming solution and the head-mounted displays all offer immediate solutions to existing problems, as does the tiled screen calibration and the collaboration tools.

The combined influence of all the components will mean that, finally, virtual reality is ready for the real world.

This article is part one of a two-part feature on IMPROVE.

Christian Nielsen | alfa
Further information:
http://cordis.europa.eu/ictresults

More articles from Information Technology:

nachricht Powerful IT security for the car of the future – research alliance develops new approaches
25.05.2018 | Universität Ulm

nachricht Supercomputing the emergence of material behavior
18.05.2018 | University of Texas at Austin, Texas Advanced Computing Center

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Powerful IT security for the car of the future – research alliance develops new approaches

The more electronics steer, accelerate and brake cars, the more important it is to protect them against cyber-attacks. That is why 15 partners from industry and academia will work together over the next three years on new approaches to IT security in self-driving cars. The joint project goes by the name Security For Connected, Autonomous Cars (SecForCARs) and has funding of €7.2 million from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Infineon is leading the project.

Vehicles already offer diverse communication interfaces and more and more automated functions, such as distance and lane-keeping assist systems. At the same...

Im Focus: Molecular switch will facilitate the development of pioneering electro-optical devices

A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.

The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...

Im Focus: LZH showcases laser material processing of tomorrow at the LASYS 2018

At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.

At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...

Im Focus: Self-illuminating pixels for a new display generation

There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?

At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...

Im Focus: Explanation for puzzling quantum oscillations has been found

So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics

Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

In focus: Climate adapted plants

25.05.2018 | Event News

Save the date: Forum European Neuroscience – 07-11 July 2018 in Berlin, Germany

02.05.2018 | Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

In focus: Climate adapted plants

25.05.2018 | Event News

Flow probes from the 3D printer

25.05.2018 | Machine Engineering

Less is more? Gene switch for healthy aging found

25.05.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>