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					                Exhibition “New Information Technologies from Russia”
                             Helsinki, 8-14 September 2008


Project Title
   VirtuSphere: An Immersive Virtual Environment System with
             Omni-Directional Locomotion Interface

Author(s) Information
 Dr. Peter PANFILOV, MIEM, Russia, panfilov@miem.edu.ru
 Nurakhmed “Ray” LATYPOV, MIEM, Russia, latypov@virtusphere.com
 Nurulla LATYPOV, MIEM, Russia, nurulla@virtusphere.com


Contact
 Dr. Peter PANFILOV, MIEM, Russia, panfilov@miem.edu.ru


Category
          Human-Computer Interfaces & Materials, 3D Games and Entertainment


Abstract

          “VirtuSphere” represents an innovative locomotion input device for virtual
environment research, which allows users to move freely and navigate naturally in
virtual environments. The VirtuSphere is a large hollow sphere that sits atop of a base
of rollers enabling the sphere to rotate 360 degrees. Wearing a wireless, head-mounted
display (HMD), users can actually walk, jump, roll, crawl and run in any direction over
unlimited distances without encountering real-world physical obstacles. Unlike
desktop simulations, the VirtuSphere allows the trainee to be physically challenged
while gaining important skills and can dramatically enhance the experience of
soldiers, firefighters, bomb squads, SWAT teams and even gamers, teachers and
architects, all of whom are starting to use technology known as virtual reality for
training or entertainment.
System Overview
        The VirtuSphere virtual reality set up is combined with a plastic
honeycombed like large 8.5-foot sphere mounted on a steel frame with 25 inline skate
wheels that allow the ball to spin 360 degrees in any direction. Removing the hatch
and rotating the sphere allows a user to step inside as the ball rotates down. User
wears a wireless HMD and, once inside the sphere, activates a software program by
walking, and the motion is simulated on the head-mounted display. As the user is
moving physically the same way as their actions are reported virtually, there is no
conflict with the inner ear, and simulator sickness is drastically reduced.




        A VR simulator based on the VirtuSphere is a fairly complex system. The
system includes both hardware and software. It requires a platform that would enable
the rotation of the sphere, a sphere that can be disassembled for shipment and which
includes hatches for easy access and exit, a head-mounted display for producing
images of virtual reality, 3D sensors, sphere rotation trackers, a computer, device
drivers and 3D software applications. Making all this work together and seamlessly is
not a trivial task, but the engineering team has successfully met this challenge.
        VirtuSphere is backed by
           Russian, European and US Patents (5,846,134 and 6,563,489) awarded to the
            inventors and brothers Nurahmed “Ray” and Nurulla Latypov
           45+ man/years of R&D and testing in Russia, Europe and USA
           7 existing prototypes of the sphere (made out of different materials: ABS
            plastic,   polycarbonate,    fiberglass),   3      variants   of   the   platform;
            manufacturing documentation and molds
           18 VirtuSpheres have been built to date
        The following pictures show the evolution from patent drawing to fully
functional systems. The spheres have been built in different sizes and out of different
materials. The omni-directional wheeled support platform has gone through 3 major
versions and additional upgrades. The hatches have been designed and tested in
various forms. The current model includes 2 entry/exit hatches and an emergency
escape hatch that allows the user to evacuate in a matter of seconds (if needed). As a
result of extensive R&D unique processes and know-how have been created and
employed to allow a 130 kg sphere rotate practically effortlessly, while providing the
user with a comfortable entry, locomotion experience and exit.




Technology
        The VirtuSphere works by rotating against the twenty-five wheels at its base. The
rotation of the sphere is measured in real time by the specially designed tracking system,
picking up the slightest movement from onside and correctly interpreting the direction and
angle. This system comprising of two detectors (one for each axis X and Z of the horizontal
plane) – called by engineering team docators – work through ultrasonic detection of
Doppler motion, detecting the angle and direction as the sphere rolls against them, and
translating it directly into X and Z with extreme precision.
        The VirtuSphere is an input device only. Because of its construction and the
way it is constantly moving, there is nowhere to back-project an image like you would
in a CUBE, CAVE or hemisphere. The sphere makes up for this by employing a head
mounted display unit or HMD for visual feedback. Another tracking system integrated
with HMD provides roll, pitch and yaw of the user’s head motion from inside. The signals
are transmitted immediately to the virtual environment, relayed back to the user via a
HMD unit that covers his/her eyes. The sphere is supplied with a wireless HMD and
joystick combo that user has to wear. Virtually, any HMD will work with it.
        Most recent technology developments for the VirtuSphere include a wearable
computer-based implementation of the system: tests were conducted with a vest that
can support either a “notebook” or “mobile PC” or “PDA” type computer. Work was also
done on a wireless manipulator, as well as other hardware and software that would be
needed to enable a wearable computing set up inside the VirtuSphere.


Unique product features and applications
        VirtuSphere is an unparalleled solution for simplicity and fullness of
immersion into virtual environments. User really has a solid feeling that he or she is
in the environment and once the user gets used to moving inside the sphere his
regular walking instincts take over so he can concentrate on accomplishing tasks in
the environment, e.g., blasting the aliens in the FPS game. It helps that the HMD and
joystick combo that you have to wear is completely wireless.
        The VirtuSphere is versatile: need to change the purpose of use? Just reload
the software. For example: switch from “ground assault” to “hostage” scenario, or from
“run in Central Park” to “walk in Red Square” by simply loading a different software
application. There are tons of applications that VirtuSphere can and will be used for,
including training and military uses. The U.S. Office of Naval Research has bought a
VirtuSphere   locomotion    interface   system   for   its   Virtual   Technologies   and
Environments (VIRTE) program. The VIRTE program is researching the use of virtual
environments for military training tasks that would be too dangerous, expensive or
impossible to do in the real world. The Lockheed Martin has purchased the Virtusphere
set for test implementation in own systems at the Mounted Warfare Test Bed, Ft. Knox, KY.
The Human Interface Technology (HIT) laboratory at University of Washington (UW)
uses VirtuSphere in human factors research, and virtual heritage and medical uses of
the system are under discussion. Physicians from the Department of Rehabilitation
Medicine of the UW tested the system with both a wheelchair and a walker, which
were used inside the VirtuSphere. The conclusion is that both means would work for
people with disabilities and those who need a means of support as they exercise inside
the sphere; this development opens additional possibilities for the use of the
VirtuSphere.
        VirtuSphere can be made compatible with most of computer simulations and
game platforms. It has already been made compatible with a number of games whose
source code has been released by their developers, such as early versions of Unreal and
Quake. The development team is also working with New Media Generation a game
developer of a FPS called Hired Team, with two levels currently adapted for the
VirtuSphere. Its Shine 3D FPS engine (both the original and new upgraded version)
and the upcoming Gorge Tour game offers support. The team is also working on
making the VirtuSphere compatible with DirectX, and with all computer simulations
and game platforms. The Parallel Graphics Cortona VRML virtual world viewer has
been made compatible with VirtuSphere, allowing walkthroughs of thousands of 3D
worlds available on the web.
        Below is a quick review of features and specifications of the VirtuSphere.
                        Complete set and specifications
Equipment                        Specifications
1. Computer                      Regular PC with graphic card, OC Windows XP
2. Wireless HMD & tracker        Modified i-Glasses HMD, 3D sensor
3.   Sphere                      Combined, diameter - 2.6m, weight - 130kg
                                 A sectional structure – 32 elements made of plastics
4. Platform                      Combined, made of a steel, 25 wheel supports
5. Movement sensor for Sphere Specially designed US or optical tracker
6. Manipulator                   Manual 3-knob device
7. Complete set                  Space – 9 sq.m, height – 2.75 m, weight – 200 kg
8. User requirements             Maximum weight – 80 kg
Pictures, Videos and Media Coverage
         A lot of informative and illustrative materials on VirtuSphere can be found
elsewhere on the Web, though the primary source of information about the system and its
uses is the corporate web-site of the VirtuSphere, Inc. a start up company established by
brothers Nurakhmed “Ray” and Nurulla Latypov in November 2004 to market the
VirtuSphere       and   other   VR-related   inventions    and        developments.   Two   links
http://www.virtusphere.com/ and http://www.virtusphere.net/ can be used to access the
VirtuSphere data.
         The VirtuSphere has featured on TV and radio programs dealing with Virtual
Reality, in many newspaper and trade journal articles on the subject. Corporate
web-pages contain extensive media coverage of the VirtuSphere project. Following is the
link to the most recent publications on the VirtuSphere locomotion device on the corporate
web-site: http://www.virtusphere.com/press.html.
         The following page represents a small collection of pictures demonstrating key
elements and features of the VirtuSphere system and its possible uses. More pictures of
the     VirtuSphere       device     can     be    found         on      corporate    web-pages
http://www.virtusphere.net/showcase.htm, http://www.virtusphere.net/specs.htm and
http://www.virtusphere.com/view.html.
         To see the VirtuSphere in action without leaving one’s chair, one needs to point
browser at http://www.virtusphere.net/media/videos.htm for some interesting videos. One
can see the machine being assembled and VirtuSphere's multi-user capabilities, among
other things...
 Ray Latypov and his invention     Nurulla Latypov with the VirtuSphere
                                               in HIT Lab




    Flat packed VirtuSphere
                                     VirtuSphere: Transparent option




                                     User with walker in VirtuSphere
Wheelchaired user in VirtuSphere
About Authors
   Dr. Peter PANFILOV – Professor at MIEM, Scientific Advisor of the VirtuSphere
   Project,
         Computer Scientist; experienced in application VR R&Ds. He has
          successfully developed and delivered VR to customers from Russian
          aerospace industry, government agencies and private businesses.
         Supervisor to Latypov’s doctoral studies in immersive virtual reality.
   Nurakhmed “Ray” Latypov – PhD Student at MIEM, Co-inventor of the
   VirtuSphere system,
         Physicist; experienced in bringing products from idea to development. He
          has successfully developed, patented a computer game which was later
          licensed to Microsoft.
         Winner of many international invention/technology awards.
   Nurulla Latypov – Co-inventor of the VirtuSphere,
         Physicist, with extensive experience in software development and
          management of operational and legal issues.
         Winner of many international invention/technology awards.

				
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