Advances in Computers and Information in Engineering Research, Volume 1
21 Create and Experience Compelling Scenarios in VR: A Hardware and Software System Architecture
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Today virtual reality (VR) is an established technology in many disciplines. It is used in engineering for design review and development as well as process planning. It is increasingly used in the context of visualizing large and complex data from many sources. Recently, with ever falling hardware prices, VR technologies are also introduced in the market for home entertainment. However, in contrast to many other technology innovations, VR requires significant efforts to develop and customize content for specific application areas, which usually necessitates 3-D modeling as well as software development, even if previously available content could be reused. Historically, many VR development platforms come from a visual-presentation background and only provide customization through an application-programming interface (API). To create content for such a system, software development is inevitable complete with requirements analysis, building and testing of prototypes, and estimating a software life cycle. All of this requires experts in both software development as well as the targeted problem domain for which the software is intended. Unfortunately, this process excludes many experts from non-computer fields from exploring the capabilities of VR technologies because they would first have to become experts in developing VR applications (for a certain VR system) before actually being able to investigate new and better ways to employ VR technology in their original domain of expertise. These constraints are not very inviting for those non-VR experts and will render the technology inaccessible to them. Building VR scenarios and content should be much easier to achieve. Ideally, the person developing that content should be able to do just that within the actual VR environment itself. The challenge is to provide a set of tools and a scenario-development environment that could be used inside a VR system while capitalizing on existing tools and techniques to create these scenarios. To address this challenge, we have developed a software pipeline that enables content creation for virtual environments by bridging the experience in the immersive environment to design a scenario and behavior in that scenario with traditional desktop-based tools to fine-tune detailed aspects of a scenario. In this way we present users with a powerful setting to quickly create and experience new scenarios.