Study Compares Virtual Reality Methods

The report, entitled "Comparing User Experience in a Panoramic HMD vs. Projection Wall Virtual Reality System," summarizes results of a new study that compares user experience within the Sensics panoramic head-mounted display (HMD) to the experience inside a projection-wall virtual reality system. The study was conducted in June 2006 during an exclusive industry event held at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. The study reveals that on average, expert users prefer the Sensics HMD over CAVE-like system in all surveyed dimensions including image quality, field of view, and degree of immersion.

31 experts from major automotive, aerospace, defense, CAD and virtual reality companies participated in the study, most with substantial prior exposure to VR systems. Participants were invited to the 3D Lab at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and had an opportunity to comparatively experience immersive 3D models on both the Sensics piSight 150 HMD and a new projection-wall system recently installed at the lab. Various automotive, aerospace, and architectural 3D models we obtained through independent sources and were loaded on both VR systems. Participants filled Web-based surveys immediately upon completing use of both VR systems.

Some of the key survey results include:
  • On a scale of 1 through 6 where (1) is "very poor" and (6) is "excellent", 94% of participants rated the piSight field of view as (5) or (6),, 83% rated the resolution as (5) or (6), and 68% had a (5) or (6) overall impression of the Sensics HMD.
  • Comparing the piSight HMD to the "CAVE" on the same 1 through 6 scale, 75% preferred the image quality in the piSight HMD to the "CAVE", and the average score of all other dimensions of the comparison (such as field of view, degree of immersion and overall performance) favored the piSight HMD.
This report provides detailed survey results, additional information regarding test conditions, as well as commentary on the use of HMD vs. "CAVE" systems.

To view the report, click on the following link: Sensics Study

by Jeffrey Rowe, Editor

Today, the term and technology, "Virtual Reality" (VR) are used in a variety of ways and often in a confusing and misleading manner. Originally, the term referred to immersive virtual reality. In immersive VR, you become fully immersed in an artificial, three-dimensional world that is completely computer generated.

The report, sponsored by Sensics Inc., a developer of HMDs, summarizes an event held at the 3D Lab at the University of Michigan and covers two technologies used for creating and experiencing VR - Head-Mounted Display (HMD) and The CAVE (Cave Automatic Virtual Environment).

The head-mounted display (HMD) was the first device providing an immersive experience. Evans and Sutherland demonstrated a head-mounted stereo display in 1965, and it took more then 20 years before VPL Research introduced a commercially available HMD, the "EyePhone" system in 1989.

A typical HMD houses two miniature display screens and an optical system that channels the images from the screens to the eyes, thereby, presenting a stereo view of a virtual world. A motion tracker continuously measures the position and orientation of a user's head and allows the image generating computer to adjust the scene representation to the current view. As a result, the viewer can look around and "walk" through the surrounding virtual environment.

To overcome the often uncomfortable intrusiveness of a head-mounted display, alternative concepts (such as CAVE) for immersive viewing of virtual environments were developed.

The CAVE (Cave Automatic Virtual Environment) was developed at the University of Illinois at Chicago and provides the illusion of immersion by projecting stereo images on the walls and floor of a room-sized cube. Several people wearing lightweight stereo glasses can enter and walk inside a CAVE, and a head-tracking system continuously adjust the stereo projection to the current position of the leading viewer.

The CAVE is an immersive virtual reality facility designed for the exploration of and interaction with spatially engaging environments. It was also an integral part of the research activities of the NCSA Visualization and Virtual Environments Group until its decommissioning at the end of 2005. The CAVE's stereoscopic and immersive capabilities enable designers, engineers, and scientists to interact with data.

Over the years I've experienced virtual reality with both the HMD and CAVE systems and can say that each as its place for specific purposes, largely dependent on given environmental requirements and needs. Generally, VR has experienced a series of fits and starts over the past 10-15 years. It has always held that the next breakthrough and greater acceptance was right around the corner, but we never seem to quite arrive there .VR requires some pretty heavy computing horsepower, and while these costs are dropping dramatically, other equipment overhead is still pretty pricey. So, while the performance and capabilities of both HMD and CAVE VR systems are impressive (in this case, especially the HMD system), prices will have to come down substantially for more universal acceptance. Will this actually happen? Probably; and don't be surprised if the gaming/entertainment sector takes the lead in making it more affordable for the rest of us.

The Week's Top 5

At MCADCafé we track many things, including the stories that have attracted the most interest from our subscribers. Below are the five news items that were the most viewed during last week.

Dassault Systemes And IBM Announce V5 R17 Of PLM Portfolio
Dassault Systemes and IBM announced the release of Version 5 Release 17 (V5R17) of their PLM portfolio, comprised of CATIA for collaborative product development, ENOVIA VPLM, and ENOVIA SmarTeam for collaborative lifecycle management. Dassault Systemes also announced DELMIA V5R17 for virtual production and its V5R17 PLM sourcing solutions (Collaborative Enterprise Sourcing - CES) for ENOVIA VPLM. CATIA V5R17 extends end-to-end industry process coverage through major enhancements in 3D electrical harness flattening, and the increased efficiency of CATIA Machining NC programming and simulation. ENOVIA's key enhancements in the VPM Navigator and in the VPLM/SmarTeam reconciliation capabilities foster relational design and concurrent working across the extended enterprise. CATIA V5R17 extends the 3D master approach with new capabilities, enabling the fast and convenient display of tolerances and annotations in a familiar drawing layout within the 3D environment. 3D XML now includes automation support, finite elements analysis (FEA) results and materials rendering. ENOVIA SmarTeam V5R17 adds flexibility to product structure management. DELMIA V5R17 introduces the V5-based Product Process and Resource (PPR) family of products for unified V5 access on the product, process and resources stored in the Manufacturing Hub. With V5R17, DELMIA delivers Work Instruction Authoring and Human Task Simulation and Analysis. Process coverage is broadened through new CAA applications in the domains of robotic coatings, inspection, off-line and on-line programming and integration with Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES).

FISHER/UNITECH Announces ID Works For Industrial Designers
FISHER/UNITECH announced ID Works, a creative desktop solution for industrial designers. ID Works combines the power of SolidWorks 2007 with NURBS modeling capability, painting and illustration software and an interactive LCD tablet to offer industrial designers a comprehensive ideation solution. ID Works combines the flexibility and ease of surface modeling software with the history and repeatability features of parametric solid modeling software. ID Works is comprised of SolidWorks 2007, Corel Painter for painting and illustration, Rhinoceros for NURBS curve and surface modeling, and the Wacom Cintiq, which allows industrial designers to sketch on screen by combining an LCD monitor with tablet technology.

FEA-Opt Technology Announces SmartDO
FEA-Opt Technology, announced the release of SmartDO 1.1. SmartDO was originally utilized as an internal code for providing consultancy services from FEA-Opt Technology, and the core engine of SmartDO has been tested under numerous industrial applications. SmartDO specializes in CAE-based numerical optimization, where the meshing noise is always a problem. Such noise usually "traps" the design point in the local design space, and makes the design unable to evolve in a meaningful way. Many packages have used stochastic approaches, like the Genetic Algorithms, to overcome such problems. However, these approaches are usually slow and unstable. With the proprietary technology called the Response Smoothing Technology, SmartDO is able to smooth out the noise caused by meshing and/or package integrations. Solutions obtained from other optimization packages can usually be further improved by SmartDO, with the much more efficient Nonlinear Programming (NLP) techniques. This makes SmartDO capable of performing global optimization with NLP, which is very unique in this field. This is especially powerful for CAE-based shaping optimization.

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