June 1 – 6 , 2008, Dagstuhl Seminar 08231

Virtual Realities


Guido Brunnett (TU Chemnitz, DE)
Sabine Coquillart (INRIA – Grenoble, FR)
Gregory F. Welch (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, US)

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Virtual Reality (VR) is a multidisciplinary area of research aimed at interactive human-computer mediated simulations of artificial environments. Typical applications include simulation, training, scientific visualization, and entertainment. An important aspect of VR-based systems is the stimulation of the human senses—typically sight, sound, and touch—such that a user feels a sense of presence (or immersion) in the virtual environment. Different applications require different levels of presence, with corresponding levels of realism, sensory immersion, and spatiotemporal interactive fidelity.

To improve the sense of immersion, developers typically build multi-modal systems, i.e. systems that stimulate multiple human senses. The development of appropriate multi-modal devices (projection walls, head mounted displays, data gloves, force feedback arms, spatialized audio, etc.) to deliver multi-modal signals into the human sensory system is a basic aspect of VR technology. The fidelity and degree of immersion of these systems is a crucial factor in any user-perceived sense of presence.

In addition, the impression that can be achieved is limited by the richness of the model that describes the virtual environment. As such, another crucial aspect is VR modelling. The scope of VR modelling typically goes beyond conventional (e.g. geometric) modelling in that it often integrates aspects related to the different modalities, for example visual, acoustic, or haptic characteristics.

If the environment includes dynamic objects, the movements of these objects must also be described. However, in contrast to conventional simulation, updates to the dynamic objects have to be computed in real time. To achieve high performance, today’s VR systems often include some form of parallel processing of the simulation data. If compromises between the competing requirements of realistic behaviour and performance have to be made, human factors are taken into consideration.

Finally, a key ingredient of any VR system is the interaction between the human and the computer. For a sense of presence to be sustained, it is necessary that the objects of the virtual world appropriately react to the actions of the user. Some primary challenges in this context include the real-time tracking of the user’s movements, and the design of intuitive devices for the user to control the virtual environment. In particular, many problems remain in the realization of VR systems that simultaneously support multiple users.

Related Dagstuhl Seminar


  • Computer Graphics / Computer Vision


  • Motion Analysis
  • Statistical Methods
  • Computational Geometry


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