University of Utah researchers use Vizard, PPT, and Live Characters to study computational vision

client: University of Utah School of Computingr

esearch field: Computational Vision

equipment used: WorldViz Vizard Virtual Reality ToolkitWorldViz PPT H10 optical/inertial hybrid wide-area tracking system, WorldViz Complete Characters avatar package, WorldViz Vizard Live Characters real-time motion-capture plug-in for Vizard, Fakespace Labs Wide5 wide-field-of-view stereoscopic head-mounted display

Professor William B. Thompson’s primary research interest is in the area of computational vision, with an emphasis on problems involving the determination of spatial organization.

RESEARCH PROJECT EXAMPLES

Visual Perception and Spatial Cognition

This research aims to understand the information and processes used in spatial behavior, using a multidisciplinary approach involving psychology and computer science in the service of both basic and applied research goals. Part of the research focuses on increasing the effectiveness of computer graphics in conveying information about the three-dimensional world.

A significant portion of the work involves immersive virtual environments, both to understand perceptual performance in these devices and to use them as a tool to approach basic research questions in perception and action.

The ability to perceive our spatial surroundings is critical to tasks ranging from grasping nearby objects to complex navigation through an unfamiliar environment. Our group examines visual perception and spatial cognition with a multidisciplinary approach involving psychology and computer science in the service of both basic and applied research goals.

We aim to understand the information and processes used in spatial behavior, with an emphasis on the computational analysis of visual cues for distance, the influence of representations of the self in perception of space, and the role of body-movement on spatial navigation. Many of these same issues are important to our applied work as well. This includes investigations of how to increase the effectiveness of computer graphics in conveying information about the three-dimensional world, investigating perception under low-vision conditions to aid in the creation of visually accessible environments for the visually impaired, and applying models of arousal and perception to clinical populations.

A significant portion of our work involves immersive virtual environments, both to understand perceptual performance in these devices and to use them as a tool to approach basic research questions in perception and action.

Designing Visually Accessible Space

This research ultimately aims to provide tools to enable the design of safe environments for the mobility of low-vision individuals who may need to operate under low luminance and other visually challenging conditions. This is a multi-university, multi-disciplinary effort involving clinical low vision, visual science, perceptual psychology, and computer graphics.

The National Eye Institute reports that blindness or low vision affects 3.3 million Americans age 40 and over, or one in 28. This figure is projected to reach 5.5 million by the year 2020. The majority of these individuals have some usable visual ability, but are impaired in ways the significantly affect the ability to perform everyday activities.

The long-term goal of this project is to provide tools to enable the design of safe environments for the mobility of low-vision individuals and to enhance safety for others, including the elderly, who may need to operate under low luminance and other visually challenging conditions. We aim to develop the basic technology allowing computer-based design tools in which complex, real-world environments such as a hotel lobby, large classroom, or hospital reception area could be simulated with sufficient accuracy to predict the visibility of key landmarks or obstacles (e.g., steps or benches) under a variety of natural and artificial lighting conditions.