Researchers in Barcelona are developing virtual reality spaces that incorporate touch-sensitive tiles and immersive animations. Pompeu Fabra University professor Paul Verschure says his research team has built an experience-induction machine as part of the PRESENCCIA project to understand how humans can exist in physical and virtual environments simultaneously. One of the project's major challenges was creating a credible virtual environment, which required the researchers to understand how people's brains construct a vision of the world.
"Imagine what we see is sort of rapidly jumping about — that would not be a believable experience for us," Verschure says. "So that means one thing we have really tried to engineer here also from a psychological perspective is how do I feed this continuity of expectations that our brain is generating about the world."
The researchers say the ultimate goal is to advance human-computer interaction beyond the traditional keyboard, screen, and mouse. "What we're trying to do is to understand why people behave in a more or less natural way in a virtual reality," says PRESENCCIA project coordinator Mel Slater.
Petar Horki, a student at Austria's Graz University of Technology, is using PRESENCCIA concepts to create a virtual reality system that uses mind control, allowing the user to simply think about an action to perform that action in the virtual world. "Actually, I'm not doing anything, I'm just imagining I'm doing a brisk foot movement, and by this imagination I can move at least in this virtual room," Horki says.
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