Virtual Reality Research

Engineering Labs in the Virtual World

Virtual Reality holds the promise of allowing students to perform realistic labs in the virtual world. Developing realistic (and non-realistic) laboratory experiences to help explain engineering science, provide experience with realistic equipment, as well as show phenomenon that is not possible in a real lab are all possible with virtual reality labs

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(VR) Training Stand
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RCL closeup
(VR) RCL Lab close-up
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tensile lab closeup
(VR) Tensile Lab close-up
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VR fatigue machine
(VR) Fatigue Lab - rotary machine
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VR fatigue shelves
(VR) Fatigue Lab - specimen shelves

Developing a virtual reality educational lab requires a number of different capabilities. It starts with the concept and the capability to model the underlying scientific principals to create a digital experiment. You then need to create the virtual environment. This consists of 3D modeling the different objects included in the environment, adding textures (which is effectively the 3D paint on the surface of the model) and placing the objects in the correct position for the environment. To increase the realism, appropriate sounds should be recorded and included, for example if you drop a hammer, it should make a clanging sound. With the objects in the correct place, you then need to consider lighting the environment to make it seem like a real place. Then all of the objects and items needed to have their functionality defined with short C# programs called scripts. See the links on this page to learn more.

Below is a panaromic view of the Virtual Reality Instructional Laboratory Environment (VRILE) that is used for initial orientation and tutorials for new users. The user can walk around the trianing platform and inspect models of the different experiments as well as go through training exercises to become familiar with interactions in the virtual world.