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CyberWalk - unconstrained walking in virtual worlds

The development of a walking platform which will allow unconstrained movement in virtual worlds is the goal of the CyberWalk project, initiated by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Tuebingen, Germany, together with their colleagues from the Technical University Munich, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich, Switzerland and the University Roma, Italy. The platform will serve as a tool to study human spatial cognition and movement in space, but later will also allow visits to historical sites or help improve training for athletes in virtual environments. The CyberWalk project is supported by the European Union with 1.7 million Euro for the duration of three years.

For the creation of so-called "virtual worlds", towns, scenes and situations are reconstructed as lifelike as possible in the form of three dimensional programmes. These virtual scenes are presented to the viewer via a projection screen or specialized glasses equipped with small projectors. In contrast to passively viewing a film, the viewers can move within and interact with the virtual environment. As soon as the viewer turns to the right, for example, they will see the same virtual scene but from another visual angle - the same as in our natural environment. The goal of such developments is to create virtual worlds which are able to give us the feeling that we really are a part them.

To achieve this goal, detailed knowledge of how humans perceive and behave in their natural environment is required. Human perception and cognition are very precise operations, responding, for instance, very sensitively if together with a rotation of the body the environmental image does not "move" at the same angular velocity. If the coordination of the two is less than perfect, the behavior of the person in the virtual environment changes - resulting in vertigo or indisposition.

But what are the benefits of virtual worlds - apart from in the entertainme
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Contact: Dr. Friederike Wolf-Oberhollenzer
wolf-oberhollenzer@afwo.de
49-7-071-964-590
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
27-Apr-2005


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