The Virtual Environment Technology Laboratory (VETL) is a joint enterprise of the University of Houston and NASA/Johnson Space Center. The laboratory performs research and development focused on virtual environments for training, education, and scientific/engineering data visualization. With a complement of over three million dollars in high performance computing and display equipment, and this region's only CAVE (a cube, ten feet on a side, with four display surfaces for total immersion), the VETL is advancing the state-of-the art in virtual environment technology. The laboratory employs a professional staff of eleven and is also supported by almost twenty University of Houston graduate students.
The laboratory's objectives include research and development activities in (1) scientific/engineering data visualization, (2) training, and (3) education. In addition to supporting NASA and the Department of Defense training technology development, the VETL aids in the transfer of NASA-developed technology to the private sector by pursuing collaborative work with industries throughout Houston and vicinity. The lab concentrates on the use of virtual environment technology in the energy and medical fields.
Employing high performance graphics hardware and software, the VETL is capable of displaying virtual environments via monitors, stereoscopic head-mounted displays (HMDs), and projection displays.
Using the VETL's facilities, scientists, engineers, and decision makers are able to view the results of their research and data analysis in a real-time, high-resolution CAVE environment. The CAVE provides three-dimensional visualization of applications, such as seismic interpretations, simulations of production platforms, and geophysical models of hydrocarbon reservoirs.
In cooperation with NASA and LinCom Corporation, the VETL has created a powerful suite of software tools that allow the importation of a large number of data formats and three-dimensional objects. These tools enable non-programmers to organize objects and data hierarchically and create multi-sensory, three-dimensional environments linked to specific hardware. Intrinsic to this software infrastructure is high performance rendering of surfaces and volumes, synchronization of multiple displays (visual, auditory, and haptic), and direct integration of the third-party software, including simulations.
The latest developmental activities optimize human resource time through "shared virtual environments" (SVE). The VETL is a leader in developing the use of SVE for training and scientific/engineering collaboration. This approach eliminates the need to bring personnel from distant locations to a central location for training or data analysis. Through SVE, individuals in multiple locations are able to train or work together in the same virtual environment with near real-time interaction.
The VETL recently demonstrated an application of this form of SVE between Houston, Texas, and Darmstadt, Germany, allowing astronauts in both locations to cooperate in training to repair a satellite.
Training Military Personnel for
Similar projects offer a great deal of potential for delivering training to military personnel in diverse locations at a very low cost compared with current field training or simulation-based approaches. This activity will provide a mechanism for delivering cost-effective training for multi-service teams before they assemble to conduct non-combat missions in foreign countries.
Educational activities at VETL center around National Science Foundation-funded research on the use of virtual environments for science education.
The goal of this project is to chart the potential opportunities and challenges of virtual realities designed for learning in science.
This project's results will aid in establishing the degree to which virtual environment technology is a useful adjunct in science education. As moderate-cost, high-performance graphics and display systems become available, the outcomes of this project will play a crucial role in defining design principles for the educational usage of virtual reality technology.
Email: email@example.com, URL: http://www.vetl.uh.edu/
The Virtual Environment Technology Laboratory is funded, in part, by grants from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Science Foundation, the Office of Naval Research, and the Shell Oil Company Foundation.