The company Ingevideo has installed an advanced virtual reality multimodal room in the Smart House Living Lab at CEI Moncloa (Moncloa Campus of International Excellence) at UPM (Polytechnic University of Madrid). The first in the world adapted for wheelchair access, this multimodal room is a two-sided CAVE (wall and floor) equipped with two Christie Mirage DS+6K-M stereoscopic projectors used to test and develop new Environmental Intelligence applications. The installation was funded by CEI Moncloa’s grants for the acquisition of scientific-technological equipment and infrastructures.
The CAVE is run by the LifeSTech (Life Supporting Technologies) research group at UPM, whose remit is to design, develop and evaluate ITC-based services and applications in the field of Prevention, Prediction and Promotion of Healthy Lifestyles; e-Health and e-Inclusion. More specifically, LifeSTech designs and develops smart systems to help people enjoy a better quality of life.
The new virtual reality room is connected to the Smart House Living Lab, thus giving users a chance to interact in a virtual world connected to a real space where different scenarios can be modeled. These can range from, for instance, an accessible house or an operating theatre to an office or an emergency control room. The purpose is to provide an intelligent environment where it is possible to try out new technological prototypes with users under real conditions.
Covering a floor area of 150 square meters, the Smart House Living Lab is a residential housing unit totally equipped for everyday living, including for the disabled. Its flexible design allows for monitoring and experimenting with ITC applications conceived to improve quality of life parameters, particularly in the area of health. Within this experimental environment, the research team and companies can analyze users’ reactions to trial solutions, as well as their degree of usability, while at the same time evaluating the market viability of products.
Ingevideo, a Christie partner in Spain, was the company chosen in the public tender to provide and install the virtual reality CAVE. As Juan Bautista Montalvá, head of LifeSTech’s e-Inclusion section, recalled, “We were looking for a supplier who would be able to coordinate the installation and complete integration of the CAVE, including the projectors and the computers as well as the virtual reality system. We also needed them to provide us with the necessary training and, in addition, to have offices here in Madrid so that they could guarantee a fast response in the event of incidences.”
Miguel Motos, director of Virtual Reality and Simulation at Ingevideo, emphasized that, “Technologically speaking, they needed the latest in 3D projection and state-of-the-art software to create the actual content. So they were looking for a company who could supply and install everything, but was also close at hand in case they were needed, with their own technical service and proven experience with this kind of system.”
With regards to the 3D projection, Ingevideo conducted a prior comparative analysis of three brands of projectors before ultimately coming down on the side of Christie. Miguel Motos explained that they chose Christie “because of the excellent cost-performance ratio and the security it has given us over the years in terms of guaranteed functionality, excellent back-up and the support it offers us with hands-on collaboration in all projects.”
A major factor behind the choice of Christie Mirage DS+6K-M (with 3-chip DLP® technology, SXGA+ resolution and 6300 lumens ANSI) was the projector’s low maintenance requirements. As Motos commented, “It needs very little maintenance and the mercury lamp also means a big saving on consumables. Besides, the Mirage range has proven itself over the years. It’s really stable, compact, offers high performance and is easy to use and to install.”
The two projectors, operating with a resolution of 1400 x 1050, use a mirror system to shorten the projection distance. The projector screening onto the floor is suspended from the ceiling while the other, screening on the wall, is located behind it, using rear projection. The used area of the screens is 250 x 187 centimeters, and the aspect ratio is 4:3.
“They are really powerful projectors and are giving us more than we had hoped for,” enthused Juan Montalvá, before adding that “we are particularly impressed with the ability to manage them via remote control, which makes it much easier as well as saving us valuable time.”
The CAVE runs on WorldViz’s Vizard software off an HP Z800 work station. The 3D glasses are Volfoni EDGE 1.1+, while the audio is channeled through Logitech surround sound speakers with 3D stereo.
The Virtual Reality system also uses a Sensics high-definition wireless head mounted display (HMD) and 5DT gloves. In addition, it uses a tracking system with eight WorldViz PPT-X IR cameras in the CAVE, which follow the motion of the person inside it and thus generate accurate points of view for 3D visualization.
The CAVE has incorporated a pioneering development that allows people in wheelchairs, whether manual or motorized, to use it. Based on a moving roller platform, electronics and an interface that transfers the movements of the wheelchair to the virtual world, the development enables the 3D design of a fully accessible house for people with disabilities.
“The idea arose when we realized that some users would not be able to get full use out of the CAVE,” explained Miguel Motos. “We raised our concerns with the team at LifeSTech and then we all got down to work to develop this platform, the first of its kind in the world,” he added.
The system for persons with reduced mobility, developed entirely by Ingevideo, includes engines, digital analogue electronics and WorldViz software. “The truth is that it’s a fantastic advance that has allowed us to do things that were unthinkable even a short while ago,” Juan Bautista Montalvá observed.
For Miguel Motos, from Ingevideo, the biggest consideration for the installation was the restricted space provision. “The area where the CAVE was to be installed was very tight, so besides the mirror system, to shorten the projection distance we also had to use special structures to position the projectors, and to that end the compact size of the Mirage helped a lot. Developing the platform for wheelchair users and integrating it into the system as a whole was also a complex challenge that we were able to resolve more than satisfactorily,” he concluded.