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Conférence IEEE VR 2015


Virtual reality undergoes a step change as it gradually becomes a part of daily life

© Middle VR - Sébastien Kuntz

In its 22nd year, the IEEE VR conference will take place in Arles from the 23rd to 27th of March. This is only the second time that this international gathering of over 500 virtual reality experts has been held in Europe.

This event bears witness to the dynamism of the French and European research teams working in this field, especially those from Inria, the French public research institution specialising computer science and a joint organiser of the conference.

Virtual reality, a technology becoming more and more accessible

Over the past twenty years, virtual reality has established a successful niche market among a restricted number of industrial users with the resources to invest in the latest state-of-the-art equipment. However, recent reductions in hardware costs have enabled the range of prospective users to expand considerably.

The latest generation of smartphones have brought virtual reality technology within the reach of a mass market audience. Incorporating high-definition screens, movement sensors, high-speed network connections, and powerful computing capabilities, smartphones are bringing virtual reality to a wider public. The addition of a virtual reality headset transforms an ordinary smartphone into a 360° screen capable of immersing the user in a totally different universe.

Healthcare, education and training: New uses for virtual reality

Video gaming is an ideal use for these new technologies, as they can expand the user’s experience and enable them to surround themselves completely in a virtual universe.

However, this if far from being the only application. Virtual reality is also opening up new perspectives in other fields including education and healthcare. Virtual reality can provide pupils with a totally immersive experience, greatly enhancing the learning process.

"For me, the prime target for virtual reality remains education.These headsets, combining movement with view, provide a sensory experience that triggers a response in the deepest areas of the brain. This helps learners to remember the information that they have received” , explains David Nahon, director of the Dassault Systèmes Passion for Innovation Immersive Virtuality (iV) Lab.

Virtual reality is also earning a place in the field of healthcare, both in training and in therapeutic applications. It is creating a minor revolution in the treatment of phobias and phantom pain.

“We have worked on one project in the human sciences that would not have been possible without the use of virtual reality.We have tried to gain a better understanding of the causes of a relatively poorly understood disease, hemisensory neglect, by haptically disturbing half the space around a healthy subject. We have done this by modifying their tactile and kinaesthetic perception. Patients suffering from hemisensory neglect are not aware of what is happening in half the space around them, an experience impossible to replicate in reality” , explains Sabine Coquillart, General Chair of IEEE VR 2015 and research director of the Inria Grenoble - Rhône - Alpes PRIMA project team.

Enhancing the development of virtual reality through a better understanding of human beings

While the potential of virtual reality cannot be denied, its large scale deployment depends on a better understanding of human perception of a virtual universe.

Sébastien Kuntz, founder of Middle VR, reflects on this challenge facing the development of virtual reality technologies:

“Virtual reality tries to trick the brain into believing an illusion of being in a real world.This cannot be achieved solely by changing visual perception.Moving through a virtual world while remaining physically in one position is detected by the inner ear, and this can cause disorientation and nausea.Bringing virtual reality to a wider audience does not simply depend on advances in the hardware. It also requires a better understanding of the human factors involved”.

In addition to solving the purely technical problems, an understanding of the human and social dimensions of the virtual reality experience is required in order to optimise the interactions between users and the virtual worlds, and to eliminate the boundary between the real and the virtual.

About Inria

Established in 1967, INRIA is a French public research institute focusing on computer science. It is jointly responsible to the Ministry of Finance, Industry and Digital Technology, and the Ministry of Education, Higher Education and Research. Graduates of the most prestigious international universities, the 3400 Inria researchers are based at eight research centres throughout France. They develop the digital technologies of the future through a combination of fundamental and applied research. They collaborate with researchers in the public and private sectors in France and worldwide, and transfer the results of their work to innovative companies. This year, Inria is celebrating thirty years as a creator of start-up companies, with over 120 having been established since 1984.

About Middle VR

Middle VR is a French start-up company established by Sébastien Kuntz in 2012. It currently employs a staff of six people. The company specialises in the development of virtual reality applications using Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear VR headsets. Middle VR also produces tools for developers wishing to publish their own virtual reality applications.

About the Dassault SystèmesImmersive Virtuality (iV) Lab

Established in 2005, the Immersive Virtuality (iV) Lab has two objectives; to encourage the development of new commercial products by the various divisions of Dassault Systèmes, and to invent new mass-market applications, especially in the field of popular culture, through the Passion for Innovation Institute. The latest release from the Institute is a 3D reconstitution of the allied landing at Arromanches based on historic photographs and other archive material, together with the associated Never Blind in VR experience.