Exploring Impossible Spaces: Practical Illusions in Virtual Reality

Evan Suma, Ph.D., Senior Research Associate, Institute for Creative Technologies, USC.
April 26, 2012 - 12:30 PM
Woodward 356
Refreshments served Abstract Natural locomotion presents one of the fundamental challenges for the field of immersive virtual environments.  Expansive virtual worlds, such as those commonly used in immersive training simulators, are typically too large to fit within the limited confines of practical real-world workspaces, making them impossible to fully explore through physical body movement.  In this talk, I will describe a series of virtual reality experiments that address this limitation by leveraging perceptual illusions to form "impossible spaces."    Such illusions can be used to provide the experience of walking naturally through large-scale virtual environments while the user unknowingly moves in circles in the real world.  Results from our formal user studies have shown that impossible spaces can successfully fool the senses into believing that an expansive virtual world is being experienced despite actually walking within a confined physical workspace, thereby empowering natural locomotion for use in a wider range of practical environments and situations. Bio Evan Suma is a Senior Research Associate at the Institute for Creative Technologies at the University of Southern California.  He received his Ph.D. in 2010 from the Department of Computer Science at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and also holds a B.A. from Ithaca College.  His research interests broadly include interaction and perception in virtual environments and 3D user interfaces, with a particular interest in natural interaction techniques that incorporate physical body movement.  He is also the author of the Flexible Action and Articulated Skeleton Toolkit (FAAST), which has been widely used by the virtual reality and hobbyist communities to integrate gestural control with 3D applications using the Microsoft Kinect.  His work has been recognized by multiple best paper awards at academic conferences, and has been covered by news organizations such as NPR, Voice of America, Wired, CNN, and The New York Times.