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Virtual reality lab at receives $3.4M from IBM


Ottawa, On – The University of Ottawa and IBM have formed a partnership to further pursue research in collaborative tele-presence at the university’s Discover lab, with IBM providing $3.4 million in funding.

The main objective of collaborative tele-presence is to give the impression to its users that they “exist” in the same virtual or real location, when in reality they are not, to the extent that they can interact with each other and with shared objects as in the real world.

The ultimate goal is to give the user a near-real-world experience. This is needed in many applications to provide the required effectiveness for the simulation, such as in surgery planning, disaster management, engineering design, and industrial training. As such, highly interactive and realistic audio, visual, and haptic information must be collected, processed, and rendered in real time.

The lab has the proper rendering equipment for 3D worlds and objects, both in the form of large screens and desktop 3D projectors. Surround audio capturing and playback devices have also been recently added. The lab is equipped with state of the art haptic devices that act as sensors to capture physical properties of objects, such as stiffness, deformation state, surface roughness and surface friction. The IBM grant will allow the lab to obtain equipment and software necessary for the highly-parallel and event-driven modeling and computing infrastructure needed in collaborative tele-presence applications.

For this project, the lab will focus on disaster management and emergency planning for natural disasters or terrorist attacks. The researchers will create a simulation of an emergency event, such as evacuating a city in case of flooding, or handling terrorist attacks in residential areas. This includes development of software tools for visualization of different emergency scenarios, as well as different response and relief scenarios. In such an application, the degree of realism greatly increases the effectiveness of both planning and training.