Humans and robots will interact in a virtual environment in the new ActiveCube that Virtalis has supplied to Bielefeld University. It is thought that this has never been attempted before anywhere in the world. Interdisciplinary research has been a hallmark of Bielefeld University from its very beginning more than four decades ago.
When the University planned a new research building for the Center of Excellence Cognitive Interaction Technology (CITEC) in 2011, Assistant Professor Dr. Thies Pfeiffer and his colleagues planned a four-sided Virtual Reality (VR) environment featuring a rear-projected floor.
The CITEC building was completed last year and Virtalis has just finished the installation of its 3m x 3m ActiveCube. Dr. Pfeiffer explained: “We will use our ActiveCube to facilitate Cognitive Interactive Technology deploying robots and motion capture techniques to analyse what goes on in the brain when movement occurs.
Psychologists will work with robotic vision specialists to help the robots develop strategies for movements such as grasping. Linguists will study the subtleties of language learning to help robots overcome misunderstandings and learn to learn, while hardware specialists and software specialists will collaborate to solve fundamentals such as how to maximise efficient power consumption.
The CITEC research building provides an enormous 5,300m² of space including a laboratory area encompassing 1,300m² that is mainly organised around a central laboratory on the ground floor. This enables a new level of co-operation and interaction between research groups. Instrumentation, including the new ActiveCube, is shared.
The central laboratory hosts a highly integrated instrumentation environment that allows users to simulate and to capture cognitive processes in high-resolution using virtual environments, capturing technology, and physical robotic platforms.
The research building hosts 17 research groups from the disciplines of informatics, engineering, linguistics, psychology, and sports science.
Dr. Pfeiffer concluded: “Our ActiveCube has been designed to operate in different configurations, so it is flexible when being used by different research projects. We felt Virtalis provided the best experience for our budget and this ActiveCube will replace our obsolete CAVE, which was installed in 2000.
One of the first projects to use the ActiveCube will be research into developing individualised sports coaching. Motion Capture will be translated into virtual movement via an avatar. Its performance can then be assessed in three dimensions and feedback given within an individual’s movement ranges. The same technology could be applied for rehabilitation too.”