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

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Successfully Tested in Praxis: Bidirectional Sensor Technology Optimizes Laser Material Deposition

The quality of additively manufactured components depends not only on the manufacturing process, but also on the inline process control. The process control ensures a reliable coating process because it detects deviations from the target geometry immediately. At LASER World of PHOTONICS 2019, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be demonstrating how well bi-directional sensor technology can already be used for Laser Material Deposition (LMD) in combination with commercial optics at booth A2.431.

Fraunhofer ILT has been developing optical sensor technology specifically for production measurement technology for around 10 years. In particular, its »bd-1«...

Im Focus: The hidden structure of the periodic system

The well-known representation of chemical elements is just one example of how objects can be arranged and classified

The periodic table of elements that most chemistry books depict is only one special case. This tabular overview of the chemical elements, which goes back to...

Im Focus: MPSD team discovers light-induced ferroelectricity in strontium titanate

Light can be used not only to measure materials’ properties, but also to change them. Especially interesting are those cases in which the function of a material can be modified, such as its ability to conduct electricity or to store information in its magnetic state. A team led by Andrea Cavalleri from the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter in Hamburg used terahertz frequency light pulses to transform a non-ferroelectric material into a ferroelectric one.

Ferroelectricity is a state in which the constituent lattice “looks” in one specific direction, forming a macroscopic electrical polarisation. The ability to...

Im Focus: Determining the Earth’s gravity field more accurately than ever before

Researchers at TU Graz calculate the most accurate gravity field determination of the Earth using 1.16 billion satellite measurements. This yields valuable knowledge for climate research.

The Earth’s gravity fluctuates from place to place. Geodesists use this phenomenon to observe geodynamic and climatological processes. Using...

Im Focus: Tube anemone has the largest animal mitochondrial genome ever sequenced

Discovery by Brazilian and US researchers could change the classification of two species, which appear more akin to jellyfish than was thought.

The tube anemone Isarachnanthus nocturnus is only 15 cm long but has the largest mitochondrial genome of any animal sequenced to date, with 80,923 base pairs....

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

SEMANTiCS 2019 brings together industry leaders and data scientists in Karlsruhe

29.04.2019 | Event News

Revered mathematicians and computer scientists converge with 200 young researchers in Heidelberg!

17.04.2019 | Event News

First dust conference in the Central Asian part of the earth’s dust belt

15.04.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

A new force for optical tweezers awakens

19.06.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

New AI system manages road infrastructure via Google Street View

19.06.2019 | Information Technology

A new manufacturing process for aluminum alloys

19.06.2019 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>