Making of: Viral Virtual Reality

As scientist of the “Virtual Environments”-team at Fraunhofer IAO, I lately shot to fame by chance. The startling incident showed me two things: first of all, how easy viral marketing works and secondly, which delighted me most, that it worked by simply explaining what you can do with “virtual reality”. It seems that my research area fascinates not only nerds!

And this is how my “15 minutes” happened:

The other day at Fraunhofer IAO: I see our project partner Mirabelle D’Cruz of the University of Nottingham standing in our Visual Technologies Lab. She is talking to our Matthias Bues in preparation of an upcoming VR-Hyperspace Meeting. I go in to say hi, because I’ve had the pleasure to work with Mirabelle on the IMOSHION project, and she is not only a brilliant scientist, but most of all always fun to talk to. Walking into the LF-Lab, I see a guy with a camera. Right away, I start joking around with Mirabelle, how everytime I see her here, there always seem to be people with cameras. (Last time it was RTL I think, reporting about VR Hyperspace, as well.) Mirabelle introduces me to Sean, the camera guy, who is filming for a YouTube-channel called computerphile, a special interest for computer geeks (so she says). He immediately asks me „you got anything cool to show me?“

Now… I don’t know this guy (and retrospectively I have to confess, I didn’t know „computerphile“ then, either). I’m not sure whether I’m actually in the mood to show him anything for his channel, let alone being filmed. And what would I show him anyways? So I say „well no. I guess you’ve already seen all the VR stuff, anyways“…

Now, let me take a break in this little story, because you may wonder what „VR stuff“ could be.Virtual Reality – the „VR stuff“ is the main research focus of the Virtual Environments group here at Fraunhofer IAO, whom I work for. And it has been a research focus here for the last … what … 20, 25 years, maybe? I’ve heard our head of institute brag a little about that „Lightning“, our own VR-engine, was the first VR-software that had really actually worked, at the time. I can’t judge that. I still went to school back then, and wasn’t at all interested in Virtual Reality. (I don’t even think I would have been interested in it, had I known it existed.) What I do know is A Lightning (now in combination with VRfx) in its 3rd incarnation, still runs great and B that 14 years ago there was a spin-off of IAO, founded to sell VR-software commercially. The spin off was called IC.IDO and is still in the market, now as a product of ESI. I guess we might really have bragging rights, here.

But what is „Virtual Reality“? I don’t want to bore you with a long discussion of that — though I easily could, I wrote 700 words about exactly that question,. just recently.I’ll just sum up their bottom line: „Let Virtual Reality be defined here as a human-computer-interface, which makes computer-generated three-dimensional environments interactively experienceable in realtime. These environments are perceived visually in 3D-stereo and show their objects in their real dimensions.“

Back to my original story:

It wasn’t Sean, who answered my comment about him probably having seen „all the VR stuff“, it was Matze (Matthias Bues): „Well, he’s actually not seen the CAVE in the IE-Lab, yet!“ (IE-Lab is our Immersive Engineering Lab) So, Mirabelle was already trying to convince me of making an interview with Sean in the IE-Lab, for YouTube. Running my day’s calendar and to-do-lists through my head, I had to admit, even though there’s always more than enough work, this wouldn’t be the busiest day of my life. So, without really knowing what I was getting myself into, after some reluctance, I did make that interview. This is what came of it:

And here you can see some impressions of our “Zentrum für Virtuelles Engineering ZVE”, the futuristic looking building, which was planned completely in VR, as I just explained in my interview. This is where I work and where our Immersive Engineering Lab is situated:

Video abspielen

By the way: Thanks to everyone, who commented the video on YouTube. Maybe I’ll find the time to answer some of the comments, and comment some of the discussions, here on the IAO-Blog.

For further reading:

Matthias Aust

Matthias Aust

Als Student Computervisualist (Uni Koblenz) und jetzt VR-Forscher und Projektleiter am Fraunhofer IAO. Privat mit Faible für alle Hockeysportarten außer Hockey (Eishockey, Skaterhockey, Inlinehockey, Unihockey).

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