Jul 302010

Touch 3D Images

It’s not uncommon to see children attempt to reach out and touch objects the first time they don 3D glasses and sit down in front of a 3D TV.

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, have created a new virtual reality device that enables users to do just that. The relatively low-cost device called the Heads-Up Virtual Reality device (HUVR) combines a consumer 3D HDTV panel and a touch-feedback (haptic) device to enable users not only to see a 3D image, but “feel” it too.

The system consists of a 3D HDTV panel placed above a half-silvered mirror that reflects the image from the panel back to the user. The user’s head position is tracked to generate the correct perspective view while they maneuver a touch-feedback device underneath the mirror, through which the user’s hand is still visible. This provides the illusion that the user is literally ‘touching’ the object being displayed.

Its creators say HUVR is ideal for tasks that require hand-eye coordination and is well-suited to training and education in structural and mechanical engineering, archaeology and medicine. The device could be used to visualize and manipulate a 3D image of a person’s brain taken from an MRI, or an artifact too fragile or precious to be physically handled, for example.

“By using HUVR’s touch-feedback device – which is similar to a commercial game control – a physician could actually feel a defect in the brain, rather than merely see it,” explained Research Scientist Tom DeFanti, who is affiliated with the UC San Diego division of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2), and created the device with Calit2’s Virtual Reality Design Engineer Greg Dawe. “And this can be done over the networks, sharing the look and feel of the object with other researchers and students,” Defanti added.

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