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 IU Trident Indiana University

Empowering Students with new Virtual Reality (VR) Software

Project Leads: Chauncey Frend, Jeff Rogers, Ed Dambik, UITS Research Technologies

Advanced Visualization Lab, Visualization and Analytics, UITS Research Technologies

Middle VR configuration
Figure 1. The MiddleVR configuration (top left) enables IU student Unity 3D projects (top right) to be showcased in the immersive Virtual Reality Theater display system (bottom).
Virtual Worlds class project
Figure 2. The undergraduate Virtual Worlds class project resembled a starship console. Pictured above a user selects a console button with the motion tracked wand interface.

During the 2013 fall semester, IU undergraduate and graduate students from two different IUPUI School of Informatics and Computing (SOIC) courses and an IUB Fine Arts course developed original virtual reality applications.  The students developed their applications using the recently adopted Unity 3D real-time rendering engine software.  Advanced Visualization Lab (AVL) staff configured the rendering engine to function within the constraints of the large-format Virtual Reality Theater (VRT) and Visualization & Collaboration Theater (VCT), and provided training modules and support throughout the semester’s developments.

The AVL’s work configuring Unity for the VRT system and providing simple documentation empowered students to immediately develop and present VR simulations. These workflows and the newly developed documentation and training aids will be instrumental in promoting and advancing the development of future virtual simulations by IU students, staff, and faculty.

Students studying industry-standardized 3D simulation skillsets request easy-to-use immersive display technology and interfaces to advance their research or creative activities.  Unity 3D is software that interfaces easily with modelling and animation packages already being taught in IU curricula. Unity 3D alone does not support VR displays and interfaces, but was adapted for the VRT system by using an additional software plugin - MiddleVR. AVL staff worked with Nvidia and MiddleVR staff to successfully configure the Lab’s virtual reality theaters for Unity 3D based VR applications.

NSF GSS Codes:

Primary Field: Multidisciplinary Studies (980) - Science, Technology, and Society

Secondary Field: Computer Science (401) - Information Science/Studies