Cutting edge virtual reality technologies from around the world form part of an international conference on Virtual Reality Software and Technology on 20-22 December 1999 at University College London.
With the UK playing host to the international gathering for the first time - past venues include Japan, Singapore, Switzerland and Taiwan - Professor Mel Slater, conference organiser, is looking forward to displaying the wares of the world's best VR technology.
Professor Slater can boast his own innovation though. Aiming to make the virtual world as acoustically genuine as it is visually convincing, CAVE (short for Automatic Virtual Environment) is designed to fully immerse participants into a VR environment. Similarities to the 'holodeck' of Star Trek fame have been mentioned by avid Trekkies in Professor Slater's team.
Professor Slater explained;
" Four of the walls in the CAVE will, in effect, be large screens. An imageis projected onto the walls in front of you and to your left and right, as well as onto the floor. Together with 3D glasses, which you wear to create a stereo projection, the effect makes you feel as if you are standing in a different environment - be it a forest, a boardroom or an airport."
Because it is one of the first to incorporate auralisation as well as visualisation the CAVE is also being used to improve the acoustics in buildings. By projecting the image of a virtual concert hall inside CAVE, multiple speakers will play the sounds and echoes that a person will hear in that concert hall and, as they move around the virtual environment, these sounds will change, just as they would in the actual venue.
This is the first time the CAVE and other VR technologies will be seen and their ramifications discussed by world authorities in the field of computer science. Among them will be Professor Henry Fuchs, an eminent expert on the subject of computer science and programming, who will be giving the keynote address.
For those who think that VR is simply an entertainment be prepared for a shock. Virtual reality technologies are multiplying in both their uses and capabilities. A leap in technology could soon render VR environments difficult to distinguish from the real world.