How the room was organized (via Vienna University)
It is finally upon us. A time when space is a non-factor in exploring an infinite landscape using virtual reality has been a dream of techies everywhere. While many are attempting this feat, many such projects still involve treadmills and other physical objects that set constraints on designers and developers of virtual worlds.
A collaboration between the Vienna University of Technology and the University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technologies has resulted in what researchers are calling a technique called “procedure layout generation.” Another way to summarize what is going on is by simply reading the title of a paper published by the research team: “Flexible Spaces: Dynamic Layout Generation for Infinited Walking Environment”.
An algorithm developed by the team generates overlapping virtual architecture that is experienced by a user wearing a VR headset. The software creates different corridors and rooms that give the illusion of moving through a big distance. When in reality, the user is moving in circles in a room. However, a real object could make the illusion much more convincing. As one of the developers put it, once a person attempts to walk outside the digital wall and they touch a real wall, they will not try to do it again.
The tests were done in a 9.14x 9.14 m^2 room that has markers around it and dictate the computer’s environment generation. The headset used gives the user a 150-degree horizontal view and a 88-degree vertical view. Seven LEDs around the headset are used by the computer to track the user’s head movements and shows the appropriate video. The headset in use resembles the Oculus Rift.
A PhaseSpace Impulse Motion Capture System, composed of 52 hi-res cameras, track the user as they move around the small room. As the user walks around the virtual space, environments are created automatically and at random so the person may never see the same space twice. The system was run on a Windows 7 PC with a dual Intel Core i7 293 GHz processor and used up 6GB of RAM and an NVIDIA GTX graphics card.
One of the developers of the technology is Hannes Kaufmann. He says the system could be used to create endless indoor environments or restricted outdoor landscapes. He envisions creating tours of museums and global landmarks that could be explored in someone’s house. The team also wants to modify the system so that two people can explore the same space, which means changing the creation algorithm so the experience can be shared and the users see each other.
As we said, this type of system could bring VR into our homes and along with it could come adventures exploring fictitious worlds, virtual tours of real museum tours and endless entertainment possibilities. But the system could also be used to learn about far away cities and could even be used to provide virtual therapies.
The Southern California team was led by Mark Bolas and Evan Suma. In Vienna, the team was led by Kaufmann and Khrystyna Vasylevska who co-authored the paper detailing the technology. The concept was presented at the IEEE Virtual Reality conference in Orlando, FL this year.
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