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News

Haptic interaction with a virtual globe

Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft Zur Forderung Der Angewandten Forschung E.V. : 13 March, 2003  (Company News)
Polarization glasses in position, data gloves on, and then into the CAVE, a room in which computer-generated images are projected onto the walls, this is how people have so far ventured into virtual worlds.
Now virtual reality can also be found at the PC workstation: Researchers at the HHI have developed a special monitor that displays virtual objects as high-resolution aerial images directly before the user's eyes. The user sees the model floating in the air about twenty centimeters in front of the actual screen. Shutter glasses are not required since the images are projected directly onto the eyes.

To create the impression of three-dimensional space, the images are calculated separately according to the viewing perspective of the left and right eyes. These two images are then projected onto the respective eye. 'This new type of display offers almost perfect visualization of 3D computer-generated objects,' says Klaus Schenke, HHI researcher, showing his enthusiasm for the high-resolution, eye-friendly screen.

A further advantage of the display is that it allows virtual models and real tools to be eqally seamlessly merged. The researchers use this property in mixed-reality applications. 'Mixed reality is an environment that equally combines elements of both virtual reality and the real world,' explains Schenke. A computer-generated globe of the world can thus be rotated, simply by using the hand, like a real globe. A video hand-tracker records the movement of the hand and the computer subsequently calculates how the virtual globe should rotate. There is no need to use a data glove to move or manipulate the three-dimensional model. Furthermore, the 3D workstation can also be equipped with a conventional force feedback system. This enables users to 'feel' the globe. On touching the virtual globe, the presence of haptic feedback is clearly perceptible.

'Mixed reality opens up completely new ways of communicating with computers. Instead of using the mouse and keyboard, the computer can also be operated by hand movements,' says the HHI scientist with regard to the technology's applications. The system even runs on a low-cost PC platform under Windows XP.
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