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Sep 18, 2007

Virtual Reality applications in improving postural control

Virtual Reality Applications in Improving Postural Control and Minimizing Falls.

Conf Proc IEEE Eng Med Biol Soc. 2006;1(1):2694-2697

Authors: McConville KV, Virk S

Maintaining balance under all conditions is an absolute requirement for humans. Orientation in space and balance maintenance requires inputs from the vestibular, the visual, the proprioceptive and the somatosensory systems. All the cues coming from these systems are integrated by the central nervous system (CNS) to employ different strategies for orientation and balance. How the CNS integrates all the inputs and makes cognitive decisions about balance strategies has been an area of interest for biomedical engineers for a long time. More interesting is the fact that in the absence of one or more cues, or when the input from one of the sensors is skewed, the CNS "adapts" to the new environment and gives less weight to the conflicting inputs [1]. The focus of this paper is a review of different strategies and models put forward by researchers to explain the integration of these sensory cues. Also, the paper compares the different approaches used by young and old adults in maintaining balance. Since with age the musculoskeletal, visual and vestibular system deteriorates, the older subjects have to compensate for these impaired sensory cues for postural stability. The paper also discusses the applications of virtual reality in rehabilitation programs not only for balance in the elderly but also in occupational falls. Virtual reality has profound applications in the field of balance rehabilitation and training because of its relatively low cost. Studies will be conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of virtual reality training in modifying the head and eye movement strategies, and determine the role of these responses in the maintenance of balance.

Sep 13, 2007

Virtual reality for the psychophysiological assessment of phobic fear

Virtual reality for the psychophysiological assessment of phobic fear: Responses during virtual tunnel driving.

Psychol Assess. 2007 Sep;19(3):340-6

Authors: Mühlberger A, Bülthoff HH, Wiedemann G, Pauli P

An overall assessment of phobic fear requires not only a verbal self-report of fear but also an assessment of behavioral and physiological responses. Virtual reality can be used to simulate realistic (phobic) situations and therefore should be useful for inducing emotions in a controlled, standardized way. Verbal and physiological fear reactions were examined in 15 highly tunnel-fearful and 15 matched control participants in 3 virtual driving scenarios: an open environment, a partially open tunnel (gallery), and a closed tunnel. Highly tunnel-fearful participants were characterized by elevated fear responses specifically during tunnel drives as reflected in verbal fear ratings, heart rate reactions, and startle responses. Heart rate and fear ratings differentiated highly tunnel-fearful from control participants with an accuracy of 88% and 93%, respectively. Results indicate that virtual environments are valuable tools for the assessment of fear reactions and should be used in future experimental research.

Sep 07, 2007

The scientific research potential of virtual worlds

Science has an interesting article by William Sims Bainbridge on the role that virtual worlds can play in the social sciences

Online virtual worlds, electronic environments where people can work and interact in a somewhat realistic manner, have great potential as sites for research in the social, behavioral, and economic sciences, as well as in human-centered computer science. This article uses Second Life and World of Warcraft as two very different examples of current virtual worlds that foreshadow future developments, introducing a number of research methodologies that scientists are now exploring, including formal experimentation, observational ethnography, and quantitative analysis of economic markets or social networks.


Aug 07, 2007

How good are current HMDs?

Via VRoot 

A head-mounted display (HMD).

Sensics, a company that develops head-mounted displays, (HMD) has conducted a survey amongst academic, commercial, and government users of virtual reality system to understand desired performance characteristics of what was termed a “goodenough” HMD.

Key survey findings include:

  1. Most existing HMDs are not ‘good enough’ according to survey participants. Commonplace horizontal field of view (50 degrees or lower) and commonplace vertical field of view (30 degrees or lower) are considered ‘good enough’ by fewer than 10% of surveyed population.
  2. The lack of ‘good enough’ performance is cited in practically all the cases where buyers with appropriate budgets considered purchasing head-mounted displays yet ultimately did not do so.
  3. Users consider the most important HMD attributes to be: panoramic field of view (over 100 degrees horizontal), large vertical field of view (over 50 degrees), very fast dynamic response (no smear or fade effects), high contrast display, high resolution display and a lightweight design

Read the full survey report  

Aug 02, 2007

Virtual-reality-Assisted treatment of flight phobia

Virtual-reality-Assisted treatment of flight phobia.

Isr J Psychiatry Relat Sci. 2007;44(1):29-32

Authors: Wallach HS, Bar-Zvi M

BACKGROUND: Flight phobia is a common and debilitating specific phobia. Recently, an effective technology, called Virtual Reality (VR), has been developed for the treatment of various anxiety disorders including flight phobia. METHOD: This article reports the results of a pilot study consisting of four subjects treated for Flight Phobia using Virtual Reality. RESULTS: All four subjects flew post-treatment. They experienced a significant reduction in fear of flying on two measures - anxiety about flying and global rating of fear of flying. Limitations: Due to the small sample size, the lack of a control group, and the lack of objective measures, caution must be exercised in interpreting the results. CONCLUSIONS: The use of Virtual Reality psychotherapy is relatively new worldwide, as well as in Israel. This study suggests the utility of implementing this technology in Israel.

Computer-Generated Virtual Reality to Control Pain and Anxiety

Computer-Generated Virtual Reality to Control Pain and Anxiety in Pediatric and Adult Burn Patients During Wound Dressing Changes.

J Burn Care Res. 2007 Jul 20;Publish Ahead of Print

Authors: van Twillert B, Bremer M, Faber AW

Changing daily wound dressings provokes a substantial amount of pain in patients with severe burn wounds. Pharmacological analgesics alone often are inadequate to solve this problem. This study explored whether immersive virtual reality (VR) can reduce the procedural pain and anxiety during an entire wound care session and compared VR to the effects of standard care and other distraction methods. Nineteen inpatients ages 8 to 65 years (mean, 30 years) with a mean TBSA of 7.1% (range, 0.5-21.5%) were studied using a within-subject design. Within 1 week of admission, standard care (no distraction), VR, or another self-chosen distraction method was administered during the wound dressing change. Each patient received the normal analgesic regimen. Pain was measured with visual analog thermometer scores, and anxiety was measured with the state-version of the Spielberger State Trait Anxiety Inventory. VR distraction and television distraction both significantly reduced pain ratings compared with no distraction. Thirteen of 19 patients reported clinically meaningful (33% or greater) reductions in pain during VR distraction. No side effects were reported. There were no significant reductions in anxiety. No correlations were found between the reduction in pain ratings and patient variables like age, sex, duration of hospital stay, or percentage of (deep) burns. After comparing different distraction methods, only VR and television showed significant pain reductions during wound dressing changes. The effects of VR were superior, but not statistical significant, to that of television. There was no significant reduction of anxiety ratings.

Jul 25, 2007

Research Fellow Post in Eyetracking for Virtual Environments

We are advertising a one or two year post at UCL to work on Eyetracking for Immersive Virtual Environments. We are seeking a post-doctoral Research Fellow to work on eye-tracking within immersive virtual environments. This is a post on the EPSRC-funded Eye Catching project. The project has built a unique tele-collaboration system, where each of three users of different CAVE-like environments can see the eye-motion of the other two users. The applicant will require a PhD in virtual environments, computer graphics, CSCW, eye-tracking or other area related to the topic of the project. They must have experience designing and running user experiments, and be confident writers and presenters. Founded in 1973, the Department of Computer Science has internationally leading groups in Networking, Software Engineering, Bioinformatics, Imaging and Virtual Environments and Computer Graphics. It is an innovative department with 40 faculty members and is located in central London - an ideal environment for young researchers. The post is on the UCL Grade 7 scale, the salary for which ranges from £26,666 to £32,796 (excluding London Allowance of £2,572).  The starting salary for the person appointed will be between £26,666 - £30,913 p.a (excluding London Allowance) and will depend on experience and education. The position is funded for one year from October 2007.
There is the potential of an extension of the post to two years. For further details and information on how to apply, please see our website at http://www.cs.ucl.ac.uk/vacancies
The closing date for applications is Friday August 24th.

Jul 24, 2007

Second Life Running on Nokia n800

From 3Dpoint /Via Metaversed/

Second Life running on the Nokia n800

Second Life resident Wrestling Hulka has a limited version of the virtual world running on the Nokia n800.

another mobile client for Second Life was developed by Comverse earlier in the year

Jul 23, 2007

Simulating hemispatial neglect with virtual reality

Simulating hemispatial neglect with virtual reality.

J Neuroengineering Rehabil. 2007 Jul 19;4(1):27

Authors: Baheux K, Yoshizawa M, Yoshida Y

ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND: Hemispatial neglect is a cognitive disorder defined as a lack of attention for stimuli contra-lateral to the brain lesion. The assessment is traditionally done with basic pencil and paper tests and the rehabilitation programs are generally not well adapted. We propose a virtual reality system featuring an eye-tracking device for a better characterization of the neglect that will lead to new rehabilitation techniques. METHODS: This paper presents a comparison of eye-gaze patterns of healthy subjects, patients and healthy simulated patients on a virtual line bisection test. The task was also executed with a reduced visual field condition hoping that fewer stimuli would limit the neglect. RESULTS: We found that patients and healthy simulated patients had similar eye-gaze patterns. However, while the reduced visual field condition had no effect on the healthy simulated patients, it actually had a negative impact on the patients. We discuss the reasons for these differences and how they relate to the limitations of the neglect simulation. CONCLUSIONS: We argue that with some improvements the technique could be used to determine the potential of new rehabilitation techniques and also help the rehabilitation staff or the patient's relatives to better understand the neglect condition.

Jul 11, 2007

Randomized controlled trial of virtual reality simulator training: transfer to live patients

Randomized controlled trial of virtual reality simulator training: transfer to live patients.

Am J Surg. 2007 Aug;194(2):205-11

Authors: Park J, MacRae H, Musselman LJ, Rossos P, Hamstra SJ, Wolman S, Reznick RK

BACKGROUND: New Residency Review Committee requirements in general surgery require 50 colonoscopies. Simulators have been widely suggested to help prepare residents for live clinical experience. We assessed a computer-based colonoscopy simulator for effective transfer of skills to live patients. METHODS: A randomized controlled trial included general surgery and internal medicine residents with limited endoscopic experience. Following a pretest, the treatment group (n = 12) practiced on the simulator, while controls (n = 12) received no additional training. Both groups then performed a colonoscopy on a live patient. Technical ability was evaluated by expert endoscopists using previously validated assessment instruments. RESULTS: In the live patient setting, the treatment group scored significantly higher global ratings than controls (t(22) = 1.84, P = .04). Only 2 of the 8 computer-based performance metrics correlated significantly with previously validated global ratings of performance. CONCLUSIONS: Residents trained on a colonoscopy simulator prior to their first patient-based colonoscopy performed significantly better in the clinical setting than controls, demonstrating skill transfer to live patients. The simulator's performance metrics showed limited concurrent validity, suggesting the need for further refinement.

Jul 08, 2007

Virtual reality in stroke rehabilitation: Still more virtual than real

Virtual reality in stroke rehabilitation: Still more virtual than real.

Disabil Rehabil. 2007 Jul 30;29(14):1139-46

Authors: Crosbie JH, Lennon S, Basford JR, McDonough SM

Purpose. To assess the utility of virtual reality (VR) in stroke rehabilitation. Method. The Medline, Proquest, AMED, CINAHL, EMBASE and PsychInfo databases were electronically searched from inception/1980 to February 2005, using the Keywords: Virtual reality, rehabilitation, stroke, physiotherapy/physical therapy and hemiplegia. Articles that met the study's inclusion criteria were required to: (i) be published in an English language peer reviewed journal, (ii) involve the use of VR in a stroke rehabilitation setting; and (iii) report impairment and/or activity oriented outcome measures. Two assessors independently assessed each study's quality using the American Academy for Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine (AACPDM) grading system. Results. Eleven papers met the inclusion criteria: Five addressed upper limb rehabilitation, three gait and balance, two cognitive interventions, and one both upper and lower limb rehabilitation. Three were judged to be AACPDM Level I/Weak, two Level III/Weak, three Level IV/Weak and three Level V quality of evidence. All articles involved before and after interventions; three randomized controlled trials obtained statistical significance, the remaining eight studies found VR-based therapy to be beneficial. None of the studies reported any significant adverse effects. Conclusion. VR is a potentially exciting and safe tool for stroke rehabilitation but its evidence base is too limited by design and power issues to permit a definitive assessment of its value. Thus, while the findings of this review are generally positive, the level of evidence is still weak to moderate, in terms of research quality. Further study in the form of rigorous controlled studies is warranted.

Jul 07, 2007

Training cognitive skills in virtual reality: measuring performance

Training cognitive skills in virtual reality: measuring performance.

Cyberpsychol Behav. 2007 Apr;10(2):286-9

Authors: Tichon J

Across a variety of operational environments, virtual reality (VR) is being increasingly used as a means of simulating hazardous work conditions in order to allow trainees to practice advanced cognitive skills such as problem-solving and decision-making. Replicating dangerous conditions particularly involving heavy machinery in the real world can be dangerous and costly. The use of VR is therefore appealing across many industries such as aviation, mining, and rail. However, while the number of training prototypes increase less focus is being given to appropriate evaluation of the training provided via this technology. Increasing skills acquisition and performance does not depend solely on the appropriate design of simulation training. Of equal importance are strong performance measures which can ultimately feedback on the success or otherwise of training and highlight any deficits to guide ongoing improvements. To ensure cognitive skills acquired in a virtual training environment (VTE) are transferable to the real world, training objectives need to be tied directly to realistic scenario events which in turn are directly linked to measures of specific required behaviors.

Jul 06, 2007

EEG-based assessment of driver cognitive responses in a dynamic virtual-reality driving environment

EEG-based assessment of driver cognitive responses in a dynamic virtual-reality driving environment.

IEEE Trans Biomed Eng. 2007 Jul;54(7):1349-52

Authors: Lin CT, Chung IF, Ko LW, Chen YC, Liang SF, Duann JR

Accidents caused by errors and failures in human performance among traffic fatalities have a high death rate and become an important issue in public security. They are mainly caused by the failures of the drivers to perceive the changes of the traffic lights or the unexpected conditions happening accidentally on the roads. In this paper, we devised a quantitative analysis for assessing driver's cognitive responses by investigating the neurobiological information underlying electroencephalographic (EEG) brain dynamics in traffic-light experiments in a virtual-reality (VR) dynamic driving environment. The VR technique allows subjects to interact directly with the moving virtual environment instead of monotonic auditory and visual stimuli, thereby provides interactive and realistic tasks without the risk of operating on an actual machine. Independent component analysis (ICA) is used to separate and extract noise-free ERP signals from the multi-channel EEG signals. A temporal filter is used to solve the time-alignment problem of ERP features and principle component analysis (PCA) is used to reduce feature dimensions. The dimension-reduced features are then input to a self-constructing neural fuzzy inference network (SONFIN) to recognize different brain potentials stimulated by red/green/yellow traffic events, the accuracy can be reached 87% in average eight subjects in this visual-stimuli ERP experiment. It demonstrates the feasibility of detecting and analyzing multiple streams of ERP signals that represent operators' cognitive states and responses to task events.

Jul 03, 2007

Use of Virtual Reality Distraction to Reduce Claustrophobia Symptoms

Use of Virtual Reality Distraction to Reduce Claustrophobia Symptoms during a Mock Magnetic Resonance Imaging Brain Scan: A Case Report.

Cyberpsychol Behav. 2007 Jun;10(3):485-8

Authors: Garcia-Palacios A, Hoffman HG, Richards TR, Seibel EJ, Sharar SR

The present case series with two patients explored whether virtual reality (VR) distraction could reduce claustrophobia symptoms during a mock magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scan. Two patients who met DSM-IV criteria for specific phobia, situational type (i.e., claustrophobia) reported high levels of anxiety during a mock 10-min MRI procedure with no VR, and asked to terminate the scan early. The patients were randomly assigned to receive either VR or music distraction for their second scan attempt. When immersed in an illusory three-dimensional (3D) virtual world named SnowWorld, patient 1 was able to complete a 10-min mock scan with low anxiety and reported an increase in self-efficacy afterwards. Patient 2 received "music only" distraction during her second scan but was still not able to complete a 10-min scan and asked to terminate her second scan early. These results suggest that immersive VR may prove effective at temporarily reducing claustrophobia symptoms during MRI scans and music may prove less effective.

Jun 24, 2007

Toward a Metaverse

Via Networked Performance


In this interesting article recently published in Technology Review, Wade Roush predicts that the line between the real world and its virtual representations will soon start blurring. Here is an excerpt from the article:


[...] The first, relatively simple step toward a Second Earth, many observers predict, will be integrating Second Life's avatars, controls, and modeling tools into the Google Earth environment. Groups of users would then be able to walk, fly, or swim across Google's simulated landscapes and explore intricate 3-D representations of the world's most famous buildings ... A second alternative would be to expand the surface area of Second Life by millions of square kilometers and model the new territory on the real earth, using the same topographical data and surface imagery contained in Google Earth ... That's a much more difficult proposition ...

[W]ithin 10 to 20 years--roughly the same time it took for the Web to become what it is now--something much bigger than either of these alternatives may emerge: a true Metaverse ... It will look like the real earth, and it will support even more users than the Snow Crash cyberworld, functioning as the agora, labo­ratory, and gateway for almost every type of information-based pursuit. It will be accessible both in its immersive, virtual-reality form and through peepholes like the screen of your cell phone as you make your way through the real world. And like the Web today, it will become "the standard way in which we think of life online..."

While Second Life and Google Earth are commonly mentioned as likely forebears of the Metaverse, no one thinks that Linden Lab and Google will be its lone rulers. Their two systems are interesting mainly because they already have many adherents, and because they exemplify two fundamentally different streams of technology that will be essential to the Metaverse's construction...

"Google Earth itself is really neat," comments Jamais Cascio, the Metaverse Roadmap coauthor. "But Google Earth coupled with millions of sensors around the world, offering you real-time visuals, real-time atmospheric data, and so on--that's transformative."

Indeed, it's important to remember that alongside the construction of the Metaverse, a complementary and equally ambitious infrastructure project is under way. It's the wiring of the entire world, without the wires: tiny ­radio-­connected sensor chips are being attached to everything worth moni­toring, including bridges, ventilation systems, light fixtures, mousetraps, shipping pallets, battlefield equipment, even the human body ... "Augmented reality and sensor nets will blend right into virtual worlds," predicts ­Linden Lab's Ondrejka. "That's when the line between the real world and its virtual representations will start blurring." 

Jun 19, 2007

NeuroVR presented to the US congress

a little self-promotion... ;-)

last week we presented NeuroVR, an open-source virtual reality software platform for clinical and neuroscience applications, to the Congressional Modeling & Simulation Caucus , during the CyberTherapy Reception.

The Reception was held on Wednesday, June 13 from 5-7 pm in the foyer of the Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, DC, USA.

read the full news release



Jun 04, 2007

Virtual schizophrenia

Via Mind Hacks



The New York Times and Wired report about the use of virtual reality to simulate the experience of psychosis. The resarch is being carried out by the company Janssen-Cilag Pharmaceuticals.

However, this approach is not a novelty, as several other scholars have used virtual reality to simulate hallucinations associated with psychothic states. For example, psychiatrist Dr Peter Yellowless has created one such system in the virtual word Second Life


22:07 Posted in Virtual worlds | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tags: virtual worlds

May 25, 2007

Haptic Telexistence

From Networked Performance



Haptic Telexistence (SIGGRAPH 2007)provides highly realistic haptic interaction among humans and objects located in remote places. Human interaction will be dramatically improved by this concept, which perceives us as the properties of an object.

Enhanced Life: With conventional systems, we can only perceive the stiffness of an object. But with Haptic Telexistence, we can also perceive the exact shape of an object, and more natural and dexterous object manipulations become possible. This simplifies complex tasks such as telesurgery and 3D modeling.

Because this system can present properties such as texture and temperature, it will support dramatic improvements in human life. For example, not only will we be able to shake hands with people at remote locations but we will also be able to feel the warmth of their hands. While shopping on the web, we will be able to check the texture of an article before purchase.

Goals: Our ultimate goal is to present all the haptic sensations through a master-slave system. Using current telepresence systems, we can interact with humans or objects even if they are located in remote places or in virtual environments. We can watch, listen, touch, and move objects. However, the properties of an object are not present in these systems, and that reduces realism and interactivity. Haptic Telexistence aims to provide highly realistic haptic interaction among human and objects in remote places.

Innovations: The system consists of four innovative devices: a dexterous slave hand, q finger-shaped haptic sensor for the slave hand, an encounter-type master hand, and an electro-tactile display. Each of these devices has more advantages than the corresponding conventional ones. In addition, integrating them to realize Haptic Telexistence is also a technical innovation.

Vision: Because haptic and robotic technologies continue to improve rapidly, we believe that this technology will be fully realized with 10 years.

Katsunari Sato
The University of Tokyo
Katsunari_Sato (at) ipc.i.u-tokyo.ac.jp

May 02, 2007

IBM Looks to Hybrid Platform for Advanced 3D Simulations

From IBM news release (thx Luca)

ARMONK, NY & FLORIANOPOLIS, BRAZIL - 26 Apr 2007: IBM (NYSE: IBM) today disclosed a cross-company project to integrate the Cell Broadband Engine™ (Cell/B.E.) with the IBM mainframe for the purpose of creating a hybrid that is blazingly fast and powerful, with security features designed to handle a new generation of "virtual world" applications, such as the 3D Internet.

The project capitalizes on the mainframe's ability to accelerate work via "specialty processors," as well as its unique networking architecture, which enables the kind of ultra-fast communication needed to create virtual worlds with large numbers of simultaneous users sharing a single environment.

Drawing on IBM's research, software and hardware expertise, the project is being undertaken in cooperation with with Hoplon Infotainment, a Brazilian online game company whose software is a key component of testing the capabilities of the new environment.

"As online environments increasingly incorporate aspects of virtual reality -- including 3D graphics and lifelike, real-time interaction among many simultaneous users -- companies of all types will need a computing platform that can handle a broad spectrum of demanding performance and security requirements," said Jim Stallings, general manager, IBM System z. "To serve this market, the Cell/B.E. processor is the perfect complement to the mainframe, the only server designed to handle millions of simultaneous users."

At its heart, the project intends to create an environment that can seamlessly run demanding simulations -- such as massive online virtual reality environments; 3D applications for mapping, enterprise resource planning and customer relationship management; 3D virtual stores and meeting rooms; collaboration environments; and new types of data repositories. It plans to achieve this goal by parceling the workload between the mainframe and the Cell/B.E.
Read the full article




22:56 Posted in Virtual worlds | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tags: virtual worlds

Apr 30, 2007

Benefits of virtual world learning