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UITS Research Technologies

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Head Mounted Displays

Background

Head mounted display (HMD) technology has recently evolved into an inexpensive but quality solution for virtual reality (VR). The lower cost affords unprecedented accessibility. The small footprint makes these systems portable and easily installed in a vareity of spaces and situations. The quality of the immersive experience now rivals other more expensive and complicated VR solutions. 

Overview

The AVL maintains and makes available HMD hardware as well as comprehensive software workflows for creating and deploying virtual reality experiences. The Lab's primary HMD is the Oculus Rift but other mobile VR platforms are available. The Lab offers training and assistance as well as limited licensing opportunities for using the Unity Engine. This combination of Rift hardware and Unity software lowers the barrier of entry to creating immersive experiences. The Lab is proud to help enable a new generation of VR users - one that includes a diverse audience with varying levels of technical skills and budgetary constraints. 

Current deployments

  • 4 AVL VR Development Kits, each containing
    • Oculus Rift HMD
    • Headphones and microphone
    • Interface controller
    • Razer Hydra VR controller
    • Leap Motion hand and finger tracking
    • Windows 7 laptop with Unity Pro installed and configured

AVL VR Development Kit

  • ZEISS VR ONE (supporting iPhone 6 and Samsung Galaxy S5)

ZEISS VR ONE with Samsung Galaxy S5

  • Google Cardboard

Google Cardboard

  • Samsung Gear VR

Gear VR

Suggested user communities and use cases

3D data review and examinationVR uniquely features the ability to examine 3D data at a vareity of real or exagerated scales. For a designer, this can prove extremely valuable during an interative design process. For a scientist, it can allow for better understanding and lead to new insight or to confirmation of a hypothesis. Pictured below is a class using virtual reality to review digitally designed sculptures prior to the expensive fabrication process.  The course instructor is holding a scaled-down model of a sculpture, and a seated user, right, is navigating a virtual reality environment containing full scale virtual sculptures designed by the class.  The view of this student is being rendered on the large screen in the back of the image.

VR review of digital objects

Spacial layout design and review. Designing new laboratories, advanced classrooms, lobby spaces, building exteriors, parks, and other locations is often a long process and requires the design team to “get it right the first time.” Mistakes can lead to expensive revisions or depleted usefulness of a space. Virtual reality offers designers and leaders the ability to navigate and evaluate a proposed space before construction. Pictured below a UITS staff member virtually reviews a proposed laboratory.

VR environmental walkthrough

Virtual simulation. Simulation goes beyond viewing data. It includes the use of advanced peripherals and/or interface technologies to truely become "immersed" in the environment often evoking emotion or providing context for the deeper understanding of a specific phenomena. This can be useful for creating scenarios for scientific study, education, training, exhibits, or other creative activities. The image below shows a student immersed in a racing experience. 

Virtual simulation

Advanced media playback. An increasingly popular and intersting use case involves the use of a HMD as a media playback device. The stereoscopic capability of HMDs makes it an ideal technology to watch stereoscopic 3D videos. The head tracking capabilities lend nicely to being able to explore 360 degree (or panoramic) images and high resolution, immersive monoscopic imagery or videos simply by physically moving one's head to look around. Using an HMD, a user can literally be "in the middle" of a movie or other traditionally passive media.

360 image ready for viewing

Cost

Buying and constructing your own HMD virtual reality system (including the display and some peripherals) should cost less than $1000. You will also need a computer. There are many options to consider ranging from headsets to interface devices to graphics cards.  If you would like help in choosing the best fit for your VR project needs, please contact the AVL by emailing vishelp@iu.edu.

Acknowledgement

If you choose to use any of this information and build your own, please acknowledge and reference the help of the Indiana University Advanced Visualization Lab. The Advanced Visualization Lab is a unit of the Research Technologies division of University Information Technologies Service and is affiliated with the Pervasive Technology Institute at Indiana University.