The Iowa Technology Institute has decades of experience in simulation. VARBU has been able to leverage that experience in order to assemble a variety of VR hardware, software, and expertise.

HTC Vive 

The HTC Vive is a VR headset created by the HTC and Valve corporations. The headset features the option of “room scale” VR. Previously, most VR headsets were limited to seated experiences, but the Vive’s advanced tracking and scanning abilities allow for standing and even moving within a 15’ x15’ (diagonal 30’) space. The Vive uses “lighthouse” base station units to track photo sensors on the headset and controllers using lasers that flood the room space between lighthouses. The device contains two screens, one per eye, each with a resolution of 1080 x 1200 or 2160 x 1200 combined. The Vive also has a 90 hz refresh rate for smooth movement.

Oculus Rift

The Oculus Rift is a VR headset developed by Oculus VR, now a division of Facebook Inc. The Rift was really the catalyst for this new VR renaissance. The Rift has a stereoscopic OLED display with 1080 x 1200 resolution per eye and a 90 hz refresh rate. It has a 110 degree field of view with built-in headphones. The Rift uses a stationary infrared sensor that picks up light from emitters embedded in the head-mounted display.

The Portal

The Portal is a completely immersive VR system that consists of six rear-projected walls arranged like a cube. The walls are made of 10 x 10 sheets of Plexiglas fitted together to form the “cube” or room within which the participant stands. The entire structure is even elevated 13 feet to allow for the rear projection of the floor. Also, a door consisting of one of the cube walls can be closed completely, immersing the user in the experience. 

Behind the walls are six high-power projectors projecting 3D images onto the walls. The walls themselves are impregnated with an optical coating, allowing for bright, crisp images from any angle with little distortion. To see the projected images in proper 3D, one wears specialized active 3D shutter glasses. The glasses are synchronized through an RF signal to shutter on and off the projected left- and right-eye images to the the left and right eyes, respectively. This occurs multiple times per second to create the 3D effect. 

The Portal also comes equipped with eight OptiTrac motion-capture cameras that accurately track the movement of the user’s head. The cameras use infrared light to track reflective balls attached to the 3D glasses and feed that information back to the computer controlling the simulation. The result is the simulation adjusting the projected image to allow for the proper display of depth and perspective. Because of its high degree of realism, the Portal can be used for simulations, analysis of designs, and interactions with Santos, as well as for experimental studies.

Visual Intelligence Laboratory

Recently, the art of recording human motions made another monumental stride by enabling the digitization of every small detail of human motion. In fact, the previous motion-capture methods were only capable of digitizing segment-wise abstract motion of people represented by joint angles or the positions of anatomical markers. However, the emerging technology, called four-dimensional (4D) scanning, enables high-resolution digital recording of human motion, including detailed deformations such as muscles bulging, wrinkles, and wobbling soft tissues. 

The Visual Intelligence Laboratory's 4D scanning system is housed in a lab in the Engineering Research Facility. The new facility houses a 19 ft. diameter geodesic dome structure that comprises 100 Canon Rebel SL1 DSLR cameras. The cameras are precisely synchronized and controlled via an opto-isolated control circuit developed in house. The cameras are linked to a network of computers so that the high-resolution videos recorded by the cameras are efficiently processed in parallel.

3D Bio-Motion Research Lab

The 3D Bio-Motion Research Lab (3DBMRL) performs applied and basic research in human motion analysis. The lab is equipped with a Vicon motion-capture system with 12 SV cameras and a Motion Analysis system.

The Motion Analysis system features a 4-megapixel resolution with only 1-2 frame latency. It is a real-time-specific system with Eagle-4 digital cameras that can collect at up to 500 Hz with a shutter speed ranging from 0-2000 µs. The focal length can be adjusted from 18 to 52 mm. Sophisticated models for biomechanics and animation applications are available for the whole body and the hand. Visual3D software is used in the 3DBMRL to analyze and share data with collaborators for various testing scenarios. Visual3D data (collected from human subjects) can be used in human validation studies and to enhance simulation capabilities.

The 3DBMRL is committed to providing industry and government with innovative testing capabilities and analysis tools to study human motion and human response to external loading. Research activities include human response to whole-body vibration, design and control of structures under dynamics loading, real-time data collection, and human motion validation.