Patent Awarded for Virtual Reality System

Posted: October 9, 2002 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Robin Herron

The university’s seventh patent, U.S. 6,448,965, was awarded on Sept. 10 for a voice-controlled immersive virtual reality system invented by Edward Wegman, Bernard J. Dunn Professor of Information Technology and Applied Statistics and director of the Center for Computational Statistics. Wegman and his students have been working with the system since 1998.

A product of the center’s Virtual Reality Lab, the system grew out of Wegman’s observation in 1997 that small, relatively inexpensive personal computers could effectively compete with larger workstations in running computational mathematics software. This suggested they might also be competitive with virtual reality software that had previously run on larger and more expensive workstations. From that discovery Wegman developed the concept that a virtual reality environment could be reduced greatly in size and cost.

He turned the idea into a class project in which he had his students map the virtual reality software that was currently running on a $120,000 workstation onto a $3,000 personal computer. He also decided to add voice recognition to the system for giving simple commands.

The virtual reality environment–in which viewers are surrounded, or immersed, in three-dimensional images–is designed to facilitate group interaction. Its presentation is ideal for visualizing statistical data, but also has military, medical, and industrial applications, including supporting handicapped users and video teleconferencing.

Wegman plans to test some of the potential applications in an updated version of the environment he expects will be ready by the end of the academic year. For more information on the Virtual Reality Lab, click here.

Write to at