Blurring the line between the virtual world and the physical world.
Virtualized Reality is a third person Kinect based virtual reality developed in collaboration with John Brieger in 2012. It is meant to be an apparatus to explore a space where the physical world and the virtual world are unified. From an elevated point of view, the Kinect maps the participant's physical environment in real time. It then pushes this digital point cloud to a pair of virtual reality goggles worn by the participant. The virtual point cloud feed can then be augmented digitally, thus allowing for a perceived alteration of the physical space in the digital space. In effect, the participant will be unable to distinguish real from fake, digitally altered from not.
The system was powered by Processing, a Microsoft Kinect, and a pair of vintage 1999 640x480 resolution virtual reality goggles (Oculus Rift was not available at the time, unfortunately).
The first prototypes consisted of a foam core structure to elevate the Kinect and rudimentary box to block out ambient light and movement. The video above documents the first physical prototype in action and the POV of the wearer. Below, my professor Golan Levin gives it a whirl during a class demo.
Building the truss and backpack
Designing the helmet in Rhino
The system consisted of two major components, the software to power the virtual manipulation and the hardware to support it. Initially we wanted to use the powerful Point Cloud Library to render a digital scan of the physical environment in real time, but didn't have the time or processing power to take advantage of it. As a result, we stuck with simple spatial translations instead in Processing.
Most of our time was fabricating the physical apparatus. The apparatus had to accomplish three major tasks: elevate the Kinect above the user, hold the computer running the software as well as peripheral accessories, and make it wearable for the user. The final structure was a truss crane CNC milled out of .5" birch ply and the backpack plate was vacuum molded poplar ply to improve ergonomics. A laser cut helmet designed in Rhino replaced the cardboard box from before.
Virtualized Reality demoed at the IACD final show.