Researchers Use Virtual Reality to Make Rooms Bigger on the Inside

Researchers Use Virtual Reality to Make Rooms Bigger on the Inside

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Researchers use tracking systems to create an infinite labyrinth that can fit in a single room.

Some of the worst dreams I've ever had have been of being trapped in a maze. I'd turn corner after corner, finding nothing but dead ends. Every step I made toward escaping would promptly be reversed by my apparently sadistic subconscious. Now, thanks to the wonders of virtual reality, I can live out my nightmares in the waking world. Researchers have developed a VR system that can create massive mazes contained inside a single real world room.

The new maze system, recently presented at the IEEE Virtual Reality conference, uses technology that tracks the user's movements and position in the room to create a network of corridors and rooms that never move outside the confines of the actual physical space. Test subjects can literally be walking in circles while the VR creates the illusion of interconnected environments. "People think they are walking in much larger environments. We can simulate rooms connected by corridors, and we could simulate outdoor areas in which certain areas are restricted," said Hannes Kaufman, a researcher from the Vienna University of Technology.

The system isn't unbeatable. Attempting to use it while walking on a treadmill, for instance, wouldn't work. That said, some things from the real world can be used to bolster the illusion. At several points in the testing process, researchers tried telling users to try walking through a virtual wall while standing near a physical one in the real world. Upon bumping into the real wall test subjects treated the virtual ones more realistically from that point on.

Impressive as the technology is, there is still progress to be made before it can be put into any sort of practical use. Currently, the program only allows for one user at a time. Its designers want to expand to include a second person and then more following that. Kaufmann hopes that this technology could eventually be used to help simulate museums and similar environments in the comfort of a person's home. "In the morning you could walk into the Guggenheim and in the afternoon explore the Taj Mahal."

Source: New Scientist

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They sorta kinda built a VR holodeck? Cor, impressive if I believed it really worked as advertised. Some amount of trickery is quite feasible, of course, but there's a limit.

Does it come with a digital David Bowie playing a baby-stealing pedophile... I mean Goblin King?

I wonder if the old trick of "Always follow the left wall" still works...

amaranth_dru:
Does it come with a digital David Bowie playing a baby-stealing pedophile... I mean Goblin King?

Now you wouldn't be referring to this would you:


OP:sounds cool as hell I wonder when the public will be able to use it.

As far as I can tell they change room proportions: e.g. when you go right it may be 3m in the real world and 3m in the virtual, but when you start going back left again it'll be 3m real and 5m virtual.

Definitely trickery involved to avoid the problem of 'hey wait a minute isn't this bit outside the area?'

i wonder how large a room they would need to trick you into think you are walking in a stright line but are infact walking in a circle.

Holodeck coming soon.

Pfft. Aperture Science has been doing this sort of thing for ages!

Sounds more like they're attempting to build a virtual TARDIS.

I like this technology. If it works.

rapidoud:
As far as I can tell they change room proportions: e.g. when you go right it may be 3m in the real world and 3m in the virtual, but when you start going back left again it'll be 3m real and 5m virtual.

Definitely trickery involved to avoid the problem of 'hey wait a minute isn't this bit outside the area?'

I'm thinking it's more like there won't be any straight lines longer than the length of the room, with everything turning at least slightly before you hit a wall. Think those old psuedo-3D Dungeon crawlers where everything is really just tiles with up to four horizontal directions, and potentially a stair case going up or down. Like that, except the tile is the length of the room, and it might be possible to turn at an angle of less than 90 degrees in order to give the illusion that you're walking down a really long and twisty passage, rather than a series of short straight ones.

It's cool technology no matter how you look at it, though. I want to play a version of Eye of the Beholder on this system, now.

Chessrook44:
I wonder if the old trick of "Always follow the left wall" still works...

Or the right wall. In theory either will work. But in this maze it wouldn't, because it's not a real, solid entity. The walls can just shift to let you go in a circle. But I do think it's pretty impressive that they used Pavlov's conditioning to make people think that the virtual walls were actually real. Kinda scary when you think about it. Like the Matrix...

you know what would be really fun, have a person wearing the VR tech on a omni-directional treadmill (not the normal treadmills they refer to in the article). Any direction or speed the person goes would be countered, so now you can have an infinitely large area for the person to explore. Throw in fake retractable walls surrounding the person, and now you can have basic walls to for you infinite simulation!

Mike the Bard:
you know what would be really fun, have a person wearing the VR tech on a omni-directional treadmill (not the normal treadmills they refer to in the article). Any direction or speed the person goes would be countered, so now you can have an infinitely large area for the person to explore. Throw in fake retractable walls surrounding the person, and now you can have basic walls to for you infinite simulation!

this would be the logical evolution of this tech, and awesome, but if the history of mankind's technological evolution is anything to go by, they're gonna find the lamest evolutionary path and follow that instead.

I think the "omnidirectional treadmill" is more promising.

Hmm... make it dark, and crank up the air conditioners to 'freezing'... and you've got a perfect way to replicate the house on Ash Tree Lane.

As in all things human, the most practical application would eventually be implanting this into felons' heads, and have them live in a virtual prison.

Yeah, this kind of sounds like an insidious plot to build a program capable of demoralizing somebody into being trapped in a room forever.

It also leads into an inspirational story: the person who realizes that all they have to do to beat the system is to close their eyes and feel their environment instead.

rodneyy:
i wonder how large a room they would need to trick you into think you are walking in a stright line but are infact walking in a circle.

This was (partially) covered in the British tv series QI on their "Illumination" episode.

Research by a Prof Schaeffer (I think) in Kansas showed that the majority of people will tend to walk in a clockwise spiral when blindfolded. It's probably fairly easy for a VR Helmet to exaggerate the effect so that a person can walk pretty much indefinitely inside a room thinking they are walking in a straight line given football field-sized room.

...although to your original question, the size of the room required would probably depend on the individual - hence using a "maze" with forced turns (where the perceived turns are bigger/smaller than the actual turns) would be much much easier. I think the article author's desire to replicate the Taj Mahal in your own home might be a little overambitious given the large open spaces involved.

It is only time before we can build our Virtual Reality gladiator arenas and LARP to our hearts content XD

"You are in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike."

As an esacapist I take this as a challenge.

Impressive as the technology is, there is still progress to be made before it can be put into any sort of practical use.

I'm kind of terrified of the "practical use" of putting someone in an infinite maze...

Now put a virtual minotaur in the virtual maze and we got ourselves an... awful creation that I look forward to playing :D

Thanks to this breakthrough we no longer need to spend billions of dollars to construct gargantuan labyrinths to contain minotaurs.

 

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