About Virtual Reality Support in Version 5

What is Virtual Reality?

Clicking and dragging your way through a 3D graphics application may be interactive, but it's not virtual reality. It's not Virtual Reality because it's not immersive. "Immersion" (or "presence") is the goal of virtual reality.

Immersion refers to your sense of engagement with the virtual model or environment. When you're immersed, you focus directly on your subject and disregard everything else. In virtual reality, an "immersive" application lets you focus on the task at hand, so you don't deal with a mouse, or the UNIX command line, or a GUI, or the fact that you're actually looking at something made from digital bits instead of physical atoms.

Virtual reality essentially moves the computer out of your way, so you can interact directly with your data or information. Unlike interactive 3D graphics (which can consist of a series of still images coming off disk), virtual reality lets you intuitively manipulate and navigate through a real-time simulation of an object, or a process, or a place.

Where is Virtual Reality technology useful?

Virtual reality adds value to virtually any application where it's vital to experience spatial relationships, and analyze, design, engineer and understand such relationships. Any project in which 3D information must be navigated or closely examined will benefit from virtual reality technology.

If you are working in two dimensions (web design, word processing, etc.), you don't need virtual reality.

What are the different types of Virtual Reality configurations?

Virtual reality technology can be recognized by the presence of specific I/O devices which can be organized into five categories, each creating a different impression of immersion. These categories are not mutually exclusive:
  • Simulators

Simulators use a physical mockup of vehicle with real controls (steering, throttle, pedals, etc.), with which you can navigate through virtual environment, and are ideal for applications such as pilot training, driver training and games. Simulators can also involve multiple participants.

  • Wearable devices

Wearable devices provide direct, "body contact" input/output to virtual models or environments through such devices as head-mounted displays, boom-mounted displays, data gloves, data suits, haptic feedback systems, motion platforms. These are ideal for digital prototyping, and provide a highly immersive experience. However, they are limited to single users.

  • Desktop devices

The traditional monitor serves as a window into virtual world, with which you interact using shutter glasses and 3D input. This is a low-cost alternative to wearable devices, and are suitable for scientific data visualization. They are also flexible (easily switch from monoscopic to stereoscopic; easy keyboard access). This range of equipment includes stereoscopic workbenches, tables and desks.

However, desktop devices suffer from the following drawbacks:

  • they are based on the single user approach
  • they do not provide a full immersion experience.
  • External devices

External devices are used to interact with your Version 5 session. Those devices consist of a hand held equipment in which a tracker and a set of buttons have been integrated. Hand tracking allows you to add a virtual hand in the model to perform interactive functions such as selection, command run or navigation.

  • Display systems

Large virtual models and environments are projected onto flat or curved screens, using such technologies as virtual reality walls (for example, in Silicon Graphics Reality Centers). They can also be projected onto vertical and/or horizontal surfaces in special chambers like  "caves" (for example, the Fakespace CAVE) or "walk-in domes".

These devices are the most sophisticated (and most expensive). They are ideal for digital prototyping, provide high resolution, and allow groups of participants to get involved and collaborate. They also require a lot of physical space.

Which Virtual Reality tools/technologies can be used in Version 5?

  In the myriad of tools and configurations available, we can already identify a short-list of hardware useful for navigating through or manipulating CAD data in real time, and capable of providing some level of immersive experience:
  • Stereoscopic viewing

Stereoscopic viewing of 3D images is built in Version 5. It can be achieved either in active or passive stereo mode, depending on the display system abilities.

In an active stereo display system, left eye and right eye images are alternatively displayed on the screen at twice the refresh rate. An active pair of glasses with two shutters working in synchronization with the images is needed. Synchronization is often achieved using an infrared emitter: the left eye shutter is closed when the right eye image is displayed, and reciprocally.

In a passive stereo display system, left eye and right eye images are displayed simultaneously on the screen. Image separation is performed by filtering glasses using polarized light, for instance.

Stereoscopic viewing is extremely easy to implement. All hardware manufacturers provide now graphic boards supporting OpenGL quad-buffered stereo on Windows and UNIX based systems. Stereoscopic shutter glasses, such as the CrystalEyes® manufactured by StereoGraphics, provide a partially immersive experience of digital mock-up visualization at lowest price investment. Another possibility is to use a StereoGraphics Z-Screen mounted on top of a standard monitor and viewed wearing non-expensive and lightweight passive stereo glasses.

  • Head mounted display

Head mounted display (HMD) afford a more immersive experience. Equipped with position-tracking capability, it displays output imagery based upon the position of your head.

To use a head mounted display, you can have either:

  • an image generator computing left eye and right eye image separately. Those are high-end systems providing high performance and high quality 3D viewing


  • an active to passive stereo converter such as Cyviz XPO2 box. This solution allows you to use an head mounted display on any platform supporting active stereoscopy.

In addition to head mounted display, a standard joystick can be added to the virtual reality configuration, providing a very easy way to navigate in the digital mock-up.

  • Projector tables, projection walls, Immersive Rooms

Digital prototyping is served well by using a large projection systems going from the single screen projection table, such as Fakespace Systems ImmersaDesk or Barco Baron, to the multi-projector and multi-sided projection room, such as the FakeSpace Systems CAVE or the Barco I-Space. Version 5 also supports reconfigurable immersive display systems such as the Fakespace RAVE or the Barco MoVE. Those systems are ideal for scale one digital mock-up review or designing large assemblies and facilities.

Displaying the Version 5 on a single screen/single projector display system requires no specific Version 5 service. You just need to plug your computer graphic board video output to the display video input.

When you have a multi-projector display system, for instance as in a TAN Holobench, you need a specific hardware and specific Version 5 functionalities. Version 5 can support any kind of immersive environment, that is to say any number of screens and projectors, in passive or active stereo vision mode.

In such environments a better immersion is achieved using head tracking, providing a 3D image depending on the exact user point of view, as well as hand tracking for immersive interaction. To do so, Version 5 supports:

  • Trackers such as Polhemus Fastrak®, Intersense IS-900 and any devices compliant with the Fastrak Protocol
  • Hand held devices with integrated tracker and buttons such as Virtual Presence SpaceStick, Fakespace Neowand or Intersense Wand
  • 3D Connexion Spaceball and Space Mouse which could dramatically increase your work productivity by helping you manipulating the model with your second hand. Please note that those devices are not specific to virtual reality and can be used in any standard desktop configuration.

What does Version 5 support natively?

The Version 5 infrastructure provides support for: