Most wide-eyed college freshmen, venturing from dorm to classroom to lab to library, think their campus – whatever its location – is a huge, immersive environment.
But at Miami University in Oxford, the Huge Immersive Virtual Environment is, truly, boundless.
The HIVE is a facility where high-tech hardware and software enable researchers to work in a simulated space ("virtual environment"). The computer science and psychology departments collaborate on it.
The National Science Foundation recently gave HIVE's creators, David Waller, associate professor of psychology, and Eric Bachmann, associate professor of computer science and software engineering, $312,672 to upgrade the facility to support multiple users.
For the computer science side, the upgraded HIVE will let researchers develop, evaluate and compare 3D user interfaces, develop algorithms for collision detection and multi-user redirected walking, explore the use of inertial sensors for position tracking in portable virtual environments; and develop tools for collaborative computing environments.
For the behavioral research side, HIVE will help researchers improve understanding of how humans learn and remember large spaces and of the social dynamics of users who cohabit a computer simulation.
Why is a virtual environment better than the real one for such work? Well, as Waller, Bachmann and colleague Andrew C. Beall of the University of California write in a technical paper about HIVE, virtual environments "are not bound by the constraints of the real world, such as three-dimensionality, Euclidean geometry, and adherence to the law of gravity."
Besides the NSF and the university, previous support has come from the Defense University Research Instrumentation Program at the Army Research Office.
Sources: Miami University, National Science Foundation
Writer: Gabriella Jacobs