The AVA lab is designed for experiments and studies within the areas of virtual and augmented reality (VR & AR). Current activities include studies of human-computer interaction in 3-D contexts as well as experiments within psychological treatment and rehabilitation in a virtual environment.
Examples of other possible application areas are interactive architectural walkthroughs, prototype development, novel computer games, human perception studies, virtual training simulation, visual data mining, scientific visualization, and artistic installations. The lab itself features a wide range of equipment to support the mentioned activities.
Reliable tracking of people’s motion is a prerequisite for all activities in the room. For this reason, a framework around the edges of the room is mounted with 24 infrared cameras. This camera system enables precise registration and tracking of any motion happening in the central area of the room. The camera data is processed by a PC, which can also relay the processed data to any other computer on the campus network in real-time. With the available tracking system, it is possible to capture anything from the overall motions of a human hand or head, to all the main joints of the human body. In the latter case, the data can e.g. be mapped to virtual characters in animation films.
For visualization purposes, AVA features two different options. Both options use the same PC as the motion tracking for rendering the graphics.
The first option is a so-called head-mounted display (HMD), which is a helmet with separate, integrated video displays in front of each eye. An HMD allows users to naturally walk around inside a virtual world to inspect and interact with it from any desired viewpoint. The HMD in AVA has a relatively wide field-of-view (102°) into the virtual world. Although not as wide as the natural, human field-of-view, it is enough to remove the undesirable feeling of looking at the world through a pair of binoculars. Very small infrared cameras and light sources are mounted at each video display of the HMD. These cameras enable precise tracking of the motion of the user’s eyeballs inside the HMD. This is very useful in studies focusing on human visual perception. The HMD can also be fitted with an extra camera looking out in the same direction as the user. In that case, it becomes possible to insert virtual objects into a video stream of the user’s view into the real world, a technology known as augmented reality (AR).
The second option is to use a conventional projection screen located at the far end of the room. When this option is used in combination with AVA’s tracking system, the experience of looking at the screen is very similar to that of looking through a real window, where the perspective and field-of-view change in response to motion. If the projections screen is also combined with 3-D glasses, it becomes possible to experience objects as if they were hanging somewhere between the user and the screen.