UMBC Building Large Virtual Reality Environment

The University of Maryland, Baltimore County will be taking outstanding strides in the field of virtual reality, and it’s even better than you think! Professors Jian Chen, Penny Rheingans, Karl Steiner, Michael Summers, and Craig Saper received the Major Research Infrastructure grant from the National Science Foundation and intend to build PI2, a virtual/hybrid reality environment. For this project, UMBC and the National Science Foundation hope to make major advances in areas such as visual representations, interaction, as well as, feature detection.

Pushing advances in this project will open doors for future generations of researchers to obtain knowledge from once unobtainable circumstances and diversify learning environments for students. Unlike the common conception of virtual reality, where one must wear a helmet to perceive a 360 degree view of the reality; PI2 will be a hybrid, or mixed, reality environment where the display will be virtual, however, it will be in an open space and displayed on tiled wall screens.


PI2 is looking to become an integral part in short and long term advancements. This hybrid reality experience will be able to accelerate education and scientific study by addressing difficult circumstances, such as environments inaccessible or too dangerous for human study. This will give many access to copious amounts of data and open doors to better human behavioral studies. It’s capabilities of supplying information will be limitless. Long term goals will include the advancement of biomedicine, national security, and healthcare. Giving credence to it’s potential for universal advancement in many fields of medicine, scientists may very well have a better opportunity to better study and understand the brain.

With the great strides of Berkley University, who were able to decode and reconstruct images from vision using solely brain activity, we may very well be on the heels of better understanding mental illness and the thoughts of those paralyzed, in comas, and stroke victims. PI2’s ability of semi-automatic feature detection and visual representations may revolutionize the standards of security, both homeland and abroad. PI2 has the ability to synthesize, capture, create, and analyze information in unprecedented detail. Through PI2’s ability to project images in great detail, this also opens the study of unmanned vehicles.

The display will be made on a curved wall with multiple screens displaying an entire image. Using thin bezel monitors (monitors with a thin to non-existent frame around the screen) in 27m pixel resolution with stereo sound capabilities in multi-column format on a curved wall, which one could think of it akin to IMAX theatres in terms of visualization, for example. PI2 will be equipped with a six degree-of-freedom tracking system.

A six degree-of-freedom tracking system will give the viewer the ability to observe areas within six degrees of motion. These degrees of motion are heaving (up and down), swaying (left to right), surging (forward and backward), pitching (tilting back and forth), yawing (swiveling left to right), and rolling (pivoting side to side). This range of motion will create multiple fields of view. Keep watch for University of Maryland, Baltimore County, it’s about to change the game.




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