VR system grabs 3D video

September 10/17, 2003

Technology has held out promises of virtual reality for years now, and such environments are slowly getting better. Researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) have taken another step toward making virtual reality more real.

The researchers have expanded their blue-c virtual reality environment to include three-dimensional video acquisition. The system consists of a U-shaped portal of three glass-panel screens, and several video cameras that take pictures of the user in order to place him in the virtual scene in real-time.

The system could be used to more easily visualize large data sets, as a design tool for architects and engineers, for entertainment, and for collaborative applications, including videoconferencing, according to the researchers.

The glass-panel screens can be switched between a whitish, opaque state for projecting images onto, and a transparent state. The screens switch rapidly between the two states, and are synchronized with projection equipment and glasses worn by the viewer. This allows the cameras to be placed out of sight behind the projection screens. The user stands in the U-shaped structure, and by looking to the front, left and right, gains an immersive view with his own real-time image included.

Real-time 3D video should be ready for commercial use in three to five years, according to the researchers. The researchers presented the work at the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM) Special Interest Group Graphics (Siggraph) 2003 conference in San Diego, July 27 to 31.

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