Changing Virtual Reality

Man wearing virtual reality system

Virtual reality isn’t just for videogames anymore. It can be used in the educational field, healthcare sector, and even for military use. Dr. Eric Bachmann (CSE) is working to create more realistic virtual environments that can be applied to these fields—one slope at a time.

In the real world, there are hills, slopes, ladders, and stairs. Unfortunately, within most virtual worlds, these landscape features aren’t accounted for, and there is no difference in the amount of effort required to go up or down a hill as opposed to flat terrain. 

Dr. Bachmann received a grant award of over $360,000 from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to simulate this uneven terrain instead of ignoring it. This addition can lead to more realistic training environments.

Experiments are conducted in the HIVE (huge immersive virtual environment) and Dr. Bachmann tests which algorithms for slope have the best human outcomes. The HIVE allows users to walk around naturally in the physical world, which will move them forward in the virtual world.

This grant project is interdisciplinary: psychology helps analyze how humans are going to interpret the virtual environment, and Interactive Media Studies (IMS) students and professors model the virtual worlds.

The grant has been in progress for just over a year and has two years left of funding.

Written by Sarah Mattina, student communications assistant