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Overview

In 1986, we started research on virtual reality at University of Tsukuba. We have developed various interface devices including visual and force display.
We think full body interaction is natural and important method for interaction with computers. Especially, haptic feedback for hand or leg is one of the solutions for the interaction. Also the immersive visual environment is needed for the interaction. Among our lab's areas of interest are haptic interface, locomotion interface, spatial immersive display and their applications.
The team includes one professor (Dr. Hiroo Iwata), one assistant professor (Dr. Hiroaki Yano), thirteen graduate students and six under graduate students. Our background is human interface and mechanical engineering.
The overall objective of us is development of methods to provide users ultimate multi-modal human interface using virtual reality.

Introduction

Haptic Interface

Haptic interactions, touching, grasping, and moving virtual objects play important roll in virtual environments. To realize these interactions, we have developed various types of haptic interfaces.
HapticMaster is a parallel link type haptic interface for desktop use that generates reaction force to the user's fingertip. The user can feel the rigidity or weight of virtual objects. The working space of the center of top platform is a spherical volume whose diameter is approximately 40 cm. The maximum payload of the manipulator is 2.5 kgf.
FEELEX (Fig.1) is designed to enable two-hand interaction using whole palms. It consists of a deformable front projection screen and linear actuator array. The screen is connected to a linear actuator array that deforms its shape. Using HapticScreen, the user can see the images of virtual objects as well as tap, touch, and grasp them.

Fig.1 FEELEX

Locomotion Interface

Fig.2 GaitMaster

Traveling on foot is an intuitive and natural practice in the real world. However, the problem of moving around in the virtual environment (VE) on foot is one of the major obstacles to be tackled in virtual reality research. In order to realize natural navigation in the VE, we have developed walking systems.
Torus Treadmill is a locomotion interface equipped with special arranged treadmill. It can provide Infinite plane for creation of sense of walking. Torus treadmill consists of ten belt conveyers. Ten belt conveyers are connected side by side and driven to perpendicular direction. Torus Treadmill can provide infinite plane for walking.
GaitMaster(Fig.2) is a locomotion interface that generates omni-directional uneven surface. The core elements of the device are two 3 DOF motion-bases mounted on a turntable. A walker stands on top of the plate on the motion-base. Each motion-base is controlled so that it can trace positions of the foot, and the turntable traces the orientation of the walker.

Locomotion Interface

Immersive Display

Visual immersion plays an important roll in virtual environments. A head-mounted display (HMD) provides full solid angle views of virtual spaces. However, the field of view of an HMD is limited because of its optical system.
We developed an image display system with wide-angle spherical screen named Ensphered Vision(Fig.3). In this system, a large screen is used for the virtual environment as an alternative to an HMD. The sphere is an ideal shape for a screen that covers the human visual field. The distance between eyes and screen should be constant as the viewer's head is rotated. A single projector and a convex mirror are used to display a seamless image. The spherical convex mirror diverges the light from the projector in the spherical screen. The image totally surrounds the viewer.

Fig.3 Enshered Vision