Monday, 07. 11. 2011  –  Category: Virtual Reality (VR) and 3D

OK, so until my involvement in IMPROVE in 2008 I had never heard of the European Framework Project Programme (known as FP projects), and when making the occasional presentation on past or current European projects I often enquire as to whether anyone shares my ignorance. It would seem most do.

The programme is the European Union’s main instrument for the funding of research and innovation in science, engineering & technology. Open to EU public and private entities of all sizes, the overall budget covering the four-year period 2002 – 2006 was €19 billion. Yes, that’s right, €19 billion…ooft. Categories included life sciences and technology, information society technologies, aeronautics and space and citizens and sustainable development. ‘Space’… ambitious or what?!

The frameworks’ focus is rebooted every few years with a revised set of ‘calls’ based on priorities identified by the European Commission. At the time IMPROVE was conceived, the development of ‘near to the eye displays’ was a hot topic, along with ‘multi modal interaction’ and ‘multi-screen displays’. On each revisiting of themes and priorities the FP advances in number. I seem to remember by Dad being involved in FP2 when he worked with Highlands and Islands Enterprise in the 80′s. IMPROVE was an FP6 project, while both CINeSPACE and MAXIMUS are FP7 projects.

From a personal perspective, I’ve really enjoyed being involved with these projects. The work is inventive, creative and inspirational and I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with some amazing people and organisaions in a variety of countries.

IMPROVE website

The IMPROVE project is actually the reason I joined the Lighthouse. The objective was to provide car stylists and architects with the means to visualise prototypes in ‘real’ environments using augmented reality (AR). The consortium involved in the project was particularly interesting, and as is the case with all European Research projects, made up of organisations from industry, academia and research. In addition to the Lighthouse, the IMPROVE consortium consisted of:

TriVisio Prototyping GmbH, Germany
MicroEmissive Displays Ltd, Scotland
ViComTech, Spain
STT Ingenieria y Sistemas, Spain

The Fraunhofer Institute, Germany
Technical University Darmstadt, Germany
INESC/IST Portugal
Graphitec, Italy

End Users
Elasis, Italy
Page and Park Architects, Scotland

Enabling Technologies
The tech used on all these projects are mouth watering. In general, each of the developmental partners have an associated area of expertise:

    Rendering (TU Darmstadt, Germany)
    Video transmission (Fraunhofer IGD (A2), Germany)
    Calibration of tiled displays (Fraunhofer IGD (A4), Germany)
    Collaborative interaction (GraphiTech, Italy/INESC-ID, Portugal)
    Tracking (VicomTech, Spain / STT, Spain)
    HMD development (TriVisio, Germany / MED Scottland)

Requirements: Architectural Sector
In the architectural scenario, designers using AR equipped Head Mounted Displays (HMDs) had the ability to review virtual version buildings while on site. Through the use of markerless tracking technologies the building would appear correctly positioned as the architect walked around the site, allowing the geometry to be viewed from a number of standpoints.

IMPROVE on site graphic

architects can visualise a building in it's intended surroundings

Sketches made on interactive pads onsite could be reviewed and revised back at the office in three dimensions by architects wearing the same HMD’s.

IMPROVE on site review

architects can make annotations to virtual structure when onsite

Finally, the system could be used to present the solution, or a number of potential solutions to the client.

IMPROVE architects office review

geometry and amendments can be reviewed in an office environment

Requirements: Automotive Sector

The car stylists had slightly different requirements. Requirements Engineering with this group identified the need for designers to make changes to 3D geometry on tablet PCs within their existing Powerwall environment.

However additionally, and critically, within the immersive AR environment designers were provided with the ability to collaborate on a model, altering geometry in space using a 3D pen. This was always quite a surreal activity to witness; walking into room to see three people walking around, discussing a car that only they could see.

IMPROVE tracking

Reviewing geometry in Augmented Reality... she can see the car, no-one else can...

Real time rendering
The video below illustrates the quality of the rendering which could be viewed from inside the headset.

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