Case Study - Virtual Reality Research Group


Virtual Reality Research Group

The Virtual Reality Research Group, based at the University of Reading, sought technical help from Virtalis when its laboratory was first set up at The University of Oxford almost a decade ago. Now the Virtalis team has advised on and supplied a custom ActiveSpace (an HMD-based system) as the research enters a new phase.


In the latest series of experiments by the Research Group, the scientists are attempting to answer whether people generate a 3D model of the world in their heads or do they instead store a representation that is more like a set of images? The VR scene devised by the Research Group to answer these questions is very simple – just three very long lines, with no apparent top or bottom and an unchanging width in the image as the participant moves around the scene.

This simplicity makes it possible to distinguish the predictions of the two models. The preliminary results from have been presented at the European Conference on Visual Perception conference by Dr. Lyndsey Pickup.

“We are attempting to find out what rules the brain applies to the images they see. For this reason, we have made as simple a VR image as possible. We aren’t trying to reflect real life or have objects behave as they would ordinarily do.  VR allows you to do this and is a crucial tool in this area of science.”
Dr. Andrew Glennerster, director of research for the Virtual Reality Research Group


“Our previous HMD used cathode ray tube technology and was quite heavy for participants to use. The NVIS SXIII we have just started using incorporates LCD technology to give a much crisper, brighter picture with fewer distortions in the pixel array. Our researchers, who have only been using it for a fortnight, report that it is easy to calibrate and a great deal more comfortable to wear.”
Dr. Andrew Glennerster, Director of Research for the Virtual Reality Research Group


ActiveSpace is a Head Mounted Display (HMD) interactive 3D visualisation system that provides the ultimate immersive experience for an affordable price. ActiveSpace combines best in class technology and is part of the Virtalis ActiveWorks family of 3D immersive visualisation solutions.

The principal advantage of ActiveSpace is that its users have the freedom and flexibility to move around in their virtual environment, totally unencumbered. Many visualisation experts believe that the new generation of wide field of view HMDs combined with tracking give the greatest sense of immersion available today.

ActiveSpace deploys Virtalis’ integrated head and hand tracking solution. This means that the perspective of the visuals alters according to the user’s position and orientation within the scene. The hand held controller allows the immersive experience to be enhanced further. The user can navigate through the virtual world, pick and manipulate component parts in real time and make decisions on the fly.

ActiveSpace comprises a wide screen HMD, a PC, head and hand tracking, installation and support.  Unlike projection systems, which require low light levels, the ActiveSpace operates, totally uncompromised, under bright lighting conditions.

generic-h-small_oxford-physiology2-216pxNVISOR SX111

The nVisor SX111 is an immersive display with a total viewing area covering 102° horizontal by 64° vertical, with 111 degrees across the diagonal.  Virtalis has seen demand for this HMD rise sharply as customers seek a wider FOV system.

The nVisor SX111 uses only one microdisplay per eye and can be driven from a single PC source supporting dual DVI or analogue video output.  Its eye relief accommodates users with spectacles and a large exit pupil supports eye movement across the field-of-view without vignetting.


The complete freedom to move within the virtual environments the team designs is seen as very important. This means that tracking, a vital element of the ActiveSpace, is of paramount importance here. The Vicon product range of optical trackers are all are superb for use in metal rich environments. Virtalis has successfully integrated Vicon tracking with its ActiveWall and ActiveSpace systems and is poised to add them to its ActiveCube systems.

Virtalis is the sole supplier of NVIS products in the UK and a value-added reseller of Vicon tracking systems.  The company has installed more integrated VR laboratory systems across Europe than anyone else, including several psychology departmental systems.


The Research Group uses a Vicon MX3 system with Tracker software to track both head and eye movements. The Vicon MX system is an advanced optical motion capture system delivering precision, performance and practicality.

The major components of a Vicon MX system are the cameras, the controlling hardware module, the software to analyse and present the data, and the host computer to run the software.
Every Vicon MX system includes at least one MX Giganet to provide power and data communication with up to 10 cameras and other devices.

The Giganet also manages the data flow to the host computer running the software used to analyse data. Vicon MX sits happily within ActiveSpace, acquiring and exchanging data with third-party devices, including external capture technologies like force plates, data gloves, and eye trackers, as well as HD compliant time code, genlock, EMG and any other digital devices.

“The Vicon tracking system represents a great improvement in accuracy and latency over our previous head trackers.  In an earlier set of experiments about the size and depth of objects, we were able to prove that most participants fail to notice a fourfold increase in room size when it is expanded in a particular way.  This raised challenging questions about the way humans represent 3D space.  Information from a continually changing retinal image must contribute to a stable representation of the scene, but we have little idea, as yet, what form that representation takes.  There are many potentially exciting applications that could follow from this research. One of the most exciting is the possibility of helping blind people build up their own representation of the world from cameras under their control.”
Dr. Andrew Glennerster, Director of Research for the Virtual Reality Research Group


Virtual Reality Research Group Website

Our News

Social Media

Press Contact

Olivia Hartley Virtalis PR

on +44 (0) 161 969 1155