VR immersion

The Translife CAVE at the UTC-Heudiasyc Laboratory has been operational for just over a year now. This is a research-intensive area, where 3D images are projected on 3 walls and the floor, providing a more realistic, more natural, effect than wearing a virtual reality (VR) helmet. This experimental set-up allows the scientists to observe and analyses the interactions taking place in a virtual environment, leading to numerous applications, especially in the domain of professional training drills.

VR immersion


What looks like a simple cube at first sight is, in fact, a cutting edge piece of equipment used to digitally model situations and environments with a high degree of precision and perfection. The user - wearing a pair of 3D glasses that rebuild the surrounding profile from the images projected on the walls and floor – is fully immersed in a coherent virtual environment. Infrared cameras accurately detect the user’s movements, enabling a real-time adaptation of the scenery and sequences as a function of the user’s movements and behaviour.

In the professional training drills, the data analysed using algorithms which assess the mental and physical state of the ‘apprentice ‘. Consequently, the exercises can be adapted as a function of the level attained, the stress and fatigue factors. When the training officer is absent, the errors the trainee makes are never self-evident. The Heudiasyc scientists therefore try to go further in designing new models to help visualize the mistakes in a given gesture. “Virtual reality offers numerous possibilities to improve the pedagogy of digital training modules”, sums up Indira Thouvenin, lecturer and research scientist, specialist of this field and Director of the UTC-VR unit.

Making learning easier

Numerous sectors of the economy could be affected by the potentialities of this technique. The Kiva Programme (Knowledge and Informed Virtual environment for gesture cApitalization) was conducted with the Montupet Group, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of cast aluminium cylinder heads for automobiles, so as to improve the learning-acquisition of the technical gestures needed when a new cylinder head is moulded. REVIATECH, a company specialized in VR training programmes, built up the virtual environment and integrated the results of research to make a better use of the system. Several options were tested in the CAVE, e.g., using arrows to indicate the direction to follow, or reproduction of a correct move by a tick mark. However, all the feedback here does not tell you where the errors lie. The most efficient solution finally consisted of analysing the mistakes, conferring on the trainee the freedom to progress and improve ad libitum. This system, called EBAGG, is a virtual sphere materializes space in 3D in which the trainee will carry out his gestures. ‘Particles’ appear dynamically when the trainee’s movement deviates from the optimal line.

The number of ‘particles’ indicates the amount of trajectory correction needed. And yet another example of VR training applications in the industrial sector, is the LEON Project (acceptabiLity of Emerging technOlogies in aeroNautics) currently under development with UPJV (Jules Verne University of Picardie, Amiens) studies the level of acceptability of VR tools used in aeronautics, depending on whether you use a CAVE type or a VR helmet environment. For instance, learning how to rivet aircraft fuselage sections as a support to compare these two environments and protocols.

Research into the interactions that take place in virtual environments for the purpose of designing more convivial and more intuitive interactive systems represents a novel experimental research thrust for CAVE scientists. To illustrate this, we can cite the rather original Special Touch programme which explores “touch”. The device allows a virtual character to touch a human being in various set-ups and scenes. The reciprocal gesture will also be enabled. What we are studying is to see if a physical contact changes an individual’s behaviour faced with a computer system and you can rest assured; we will tell your readers what our conclusions are, once we have conducted the research planned this promising field.