09.06.13 - 14.06.13, Seminar 13241

Virtual Realities

The following text appeared on our web pages prior to the seminar, and was included as part of the invitation.


Virtual Reality (VR) is a multidisciplinary area of research aimed at interactive human computer mediated simulations of artificial environments. An important aspect of VR-based systems is the stimulation of the human senses - usually 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 interactive fidelity. Sometimes it is important to combine real and virtual objects in the same real or virtual environment. This approach is often referred to as Augmented Reality (AR), when certain virtual objects are integrated into a real environment. Typical VR applications include simulation, training, scientific visualization, and entertainment, whereas typical AR applications include computer-aided manufacturing or maintenance, and computer-aided surgery or medicine.

In the organization of this seminar we intend to experiment with varying formats of the sessions including the standard talk-and-discussion format, grand-challenge-discussions involving the whole group and parallel breakout discussions devoted to particular subjects. For this meeting we plan to solicit in advance ideas for breakout sessions and research areas for talk/discussion clusters. It is planned to publish a proceedings volume similar to the book “Virtual Realities” published by Springer in 2011.

Important topics to be discussed include:

  • Multi-modal systems: The development of appropriate multi-modal devices (projection walls, head mounted displays, data gloves, force feedback arms, spatialized audio, etc.) in order 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.
  • 3D interaction: 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.
  • Presence, Telepresence and Tele-existence: The understanding of different aspects of presence and the appropriate technical means to induce this experience remains a hot topic in VR. As an example it has recently been suggested that “presence” should really be considered in two parts: a place illusion (a sense of being in a place) and a plausibility illusion (a sense that something is really happening). These theoretical constructs also apply for telepresence and teleexistence in terms of how much real people perceive the presence of a remote virtual participant, and how the remote participant perceives a sense of presence with the real people.
  • Virtual humans: Autonomous avatars are now becoming practical, offering the promise of a controlled human dimension to applications such as education, training, and entertainment. As such researchers are now in a position to explore fundamental questions related to virtual humans.