Virtual Reality
March 8-12 Reno NV USA

Panel #2

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Getting around in Virtual Environments

Silver Legacy Resort Casino
Reno, Nevada


Betty Mohler, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics


Mary Whitton, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Barry Peterson, The MOVES Institute, Naval Postgraduate School
Victoria Interrante, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
Heinrich H. Buelthoff, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics


In the real world we navigate our environment with ease by walking, running, riding, driving, or flying, but in the virtual world this is difficult to replicate realistically. While naturally navigating our environment, sensory information, such as, vestibular, proprioceptive and visual information create consistent multi-sensory cues that indicate one's acceleration, speed and direction of travel. Virtual environments were initially restricted to visual displays, combined with interactive devices that provided unnatural inputs to generate self-motion (e.g. a joystick). Now, however, increasingly more investigators are considering the impacts of providing natural, multi-modal methods of generating self-motion and there is a need to evaluate what impact these systems have on "getting around" in virtual environments. These impacts can be perceptual/cognitive, etc. or functional. This panel will discuss the different locomotion methods currently available, along with their benefits and consequences for specific virtual environment applications. The panel members chosen for this discussion have researched different locomotion techniques and/or their impact on human navigation, perception and/or presence in virtual environments. More specifically, this panel will discuss different engineering devices and methods of interaction that have been used to allow for more natural navigation of virtual spaces. Finally, experiments that have examined these different methods of locomotion will be presented, along with suggestions for deciding on and evaluating different methods of locomotion for various virtual environment applications.


Dr. Betty Mohler received her PhD from the University of Utah in 2007. She is now in her second year of a post-doctoral research position at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Tübingen, Germany, where she collaborates with engineers, neuroscientists and psychologists. Her main research interest is in understanding the human observer towards the aim of improving virtual environment applications. She is specifically interested in the visual-motor processes underlying human locomotion and enabling humans to naturally travel within an immersive virtual environment. Towards this aim, she has investigated both the influence of visual information within an immersive virtual environment on human locomotor behavior and also the process of human adaptation within immersive virtual environments.

Prof. Mary C. Whitton is a research associate professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has been working in high-performance graphics, visualization, and virtual environments since 1978 when she co-founded the first of her two entrepreneurial ventures. At UNC since 1994, her research focuses on what makes virtual environment systems effective and on developing techniques to make them more effective when used in applications such as simulation, training, and rehabilitation. Ms. Whitton earned M.S. degrees in Guidance and Personnel Services (1974) and Electrical Engineering (1984) from North Carolina State University.

Prof. Barry Peterson has over twenty years of experience in human-centric aspects of training to include simulation, virtual reality, interface design, and physical conditioning in civilian, academic, and military organizations. He has conducted his research in Navigation and Wayfinding in Virtual Environments at the HIT Lab at the University of Washington and the MoVES Institute at the Naval Postgraduate School. Of particular interest is the investigation of how computer interfaces can help accelerate our understanding and development of expertise. He is currently involved with the study of interpersonal transforming power, to determine its components of mastery and how best to train it.

Prof. Victoria Interrante is an Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Science, a Faculty Member in the Human Factors and Ergonomics program, and an Associate Member of the Center for Cognitive Sciences at the University of Minnesota. She received her PhD in 1996 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and worked from 1996-1998 as a staff scientist at the Institute for Computer Applications in Science and Engineering at NASA Langley. The common focus of her research efforts in visualization and computer graphics is on the application of insights from visual perception to the development of more effective techniques for communicating information. She enjoys interdisciplinary collaborations with colleagues from a variety of departments on campus including Aerospace Engineering, Architecture, and the Institute for Child Development. She is also a PECASE recipient (1999) and an Associate Editor of the ACM Transactions on Applied Perception.

Prof. Heinrich H. Bülthoff is the director at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Tübingen. He is head of the Psychophysics Department in which a group of about 70 biologists, computer scientists, mathematicians, physicists and psychologists work on psychophysical and computational aspects of higher level visual processes in the following areas: object and face recognition, sensory-motor integration, spatial cognition, computer graphics psychophysics, and perception and behavior in virtual environments. Prof. Bülthoff holds a Ph.D. degree in the natural sciences from the Eberhard-Karls-Universität in Tübingen. From 1980 to 1988 he worked as a research scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was Assistant, Associate and Full Professor of Cognitive Science at Brown University in Providence from 1988-1993 before becoming director at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics. Since 1996 he is also Honorary Professor at the Eberhard-Karls-Universität in Tübingen and since 2004 Editor in Chief of the ACM Transactions on Applied Perception.





















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