Virtual reality (VR) systems strive to provide real world experiences in safe and controlled computer generated environments. VR systems attempt to deliver two key features: realism and real-time. In particular, the real time element is essential to provide an interactive experience to the user. To achieve this, current VR systems compromise the realism in the environments they are simulating. This is because even the very latest computer hardware is simply not capable of simulating, to a full degree of physical accuracy, in real time, the complexities of the real world. Furthermore, VR systems seldom offer more than two sensory stimuli (typically visuals and audio, or visuals and touch).
Real Virtuality systems, on the other hand, are defined as virtual environments that are based on physical simulations and stimulate multiple senses (visuals, audio, smell, touch, motion etc.) in a natural manner. A key feature of Real Virtuality is the natural delivery of multiple senses to ensure cross-modalities (the influence of one sense on another) that would occur in the real environment are present in the virtual world, as these can substantially alter the way in which a scene is perceived and the way the user behaves. In this project we will consider environments that include 4 senses: visuals, audio, smell and feel (where feel includes motion, temperature and wind-speed). Real Virtuality systems are able to achieve a high level of authenticity in real time by selectively delivering real world stimuli; exploiting the fact that the human perceptual system is simply not capable of attending to all stimuli at the highest precision all the time. Rather humans selectively attend to objects within the scene. This can result in large amounts of detail from one sense going unnoticed when in the presence of competing sensory inputs from another modality, or subtle signals in one modality being strongly enhanced by congruent information in another sense. Knowledge of the relative importance of sensory information in a scene at any point in time, enables the areas being attended to, to be computed at the highest quality, while other areas can be delivered at a much lower quality (and thus at a significantly reduced computational effort), without the user being aware of this quality difference.
Visualisation and Virtual Experience, undertakes research into a novel, validated Real Virtuality Platform that will provide perceptually equivalent experiences between real world scenarios and their simulated virtual world equivalents. The authenticity of the results is key to enable decisions within the virtual environments to be taken with confidence that the same decision would be made in the equivalent real environment. The high-fidelity of the resultant virtual system will thus be thoroughly tested and fully validated against two real test cases: Gaydon and Sweden. The anticipated outcomes of the research will be techniques of visualisation applicable at all levels of vehicle design:
- from verification of individual components through to the verification of the final vehicle design,
- and through all stages of the design process, from initial concept definition through to final design approval, through to manufacturing and onto the dealerships, and marketing.
Visualisation and Virtual Experience will remove the need to build physical prototypes and thus bring about a reduction in time to market. This would be impossible to achieve without the ability to effectively and authentically experience a product virtually in its intended context, and to make rapid, objective decisions as a result. The results of this project will address national UK priorities by providing step-change improvements in virtual experiences. The new algorithms and methodologies, although created and fully validated for the automotive industry, will be equally applicable to any sector engaged in the design and high value manufacture of products.