Thursday, March 24, 2005

"VR: Software uses sculptor's touch on virtual objects"

Virtual reality software has long held the promise of enabling designers to sculpt the sleek curves and contours of a new product from "virtual clay," but up until last year designers had to learn a whole new procedure for working with computer-aided design (CAD). Until now, virtual shapes could only be sculpted via keyboard and mouse input to define "splines" or similar mathematical objects that determine a curve's shape, but have nothing to do with sculpting. More recently, haptic feedback devices have arrived that offer a more direct relationship between the hand and a virtual object, but they still lack the naturalness of hand-shaped clay. A project of the State University of New York at Buffalo is seeking a direct intuitive method for working with virtual shapes in a CAD system using the type of glove developed in virtual reality systems. Using the approach, it is possible to work with actual clay to sculpt a shape, which is then automatically transferred to a CAD representation. "Ours is the only technology capable of transferring touch directly from the user's hand to the virtual object," said associate professor Thenkurussi Kesavadas, director of the Virtual Reality Lab