Virtual Reality, May 16

Virtual Reality: Science Salon, May 16, 2017

The work of Dr. Vicki Interrante and Dr. Dan Keefe, University of Minnesota, Computer Science & Engineering

About 50 people gathered at the University of Minnesota Walter Library to hear about the latest virtual reality (VR) research and applications from Computer Science and Engineering professors Vickie Interrante and Dan Keefe. The event started off with demos of VR equipment by Vickie and her students. Attendees were able to put on VR goggles to see how real-life surroundings are altered using VR equipment and also how these goggles can completely change your surroundings when you put them on. Many attendees had never worn VR goggles before and were blown away by their experience!

During her talk, Vickie discussed use of VR in architecture to have a first-person experience of a building design. Since it is common for people to underestimate distances with regards to experience of the design in virtual environments, Vickie conducted some research on how to change visual parameters of building designs to minimize such under-estimation. She found that use of avatars and images of people and other familiar objects in the virtual environment helps reduce distance under-estimation and brings the design to life.

Dan then shared about his work on creating magical human-computer interfaces to “use computers to do things that we can not do in the real world and still have the human element in it.” Dan and his students collaborate with artists, scientists, doctors and engineers to improve designs by being able to experience a three-dimensional model of a metal sculpture, practice heart surgery virtually and simulate acoustics of talking to 600 versus 6,000 people.

Another area of his research is how to query big data sets by not just looking at graphs of data but having the ability to query part of the set and see it in ways never visualized before. The night wrapped up with demos of VR equipment in Dan’s lab. Attendees got to make three-dimensional virtual drawings, navigate human body parts as if in surgery and gain other hands-on experiences of research happening in his lab.

Much thanks to Dan and Vickie for sharing their cutting-edge research with the Minnesota Academy of Science and Twin Cities communities.

Keep an eye out for an announcement about an upcoming Science Salon in September!


Advancing Architectural Design with Immersive Virtual Reality
Dr. Victoria Interrante, Professor
Department of Computer Science and Engineering, University of Minnesota

Virtual Reality technology has the potential to enable transformative advances in architectural design and evaluation by enabling people to experience a modeled structure from an interactive, first-person perspective before it is built. However, many studies over the years have found that people tend to significantly underestimate egocentric distances in VR relative to the real world. In this talk, Dr. Interrante will summarize recent and historical research from her lab that attempts to clarify the mechanisms responsible for this problem and discuss solutions she and her research group have explored based on those insights.

Magic User Interfaces:  Virtual Reality for Art and Science
Dr. Daniel Keefe, Associate Professor
Department of Computer Science and Engineering, University of Minnesota

“Beautiful or delightful in such a way as to seem removed from everyday life” — this definition of magical from the Oxford English Dictionary appropriately describes the future of computing as fundamentally awe-inspiring, innovative, even other-worldly. Deeply immersive and interactive, the virtual environments of today and of the future are visually compelling and implement hands-on, data-aware user interfaces that are nothing short of magical. Dr. Keefe will discuss how he and his team collaborate with artists, scientists, engineers, doctors, and humanists from across the University of Minnesota to invent and creatively employ new computer tools, such as virtual simulation, to address challenging problems in data representation and understanding, digital design, virtual reality, and human-computer interaction. 

What is Science Salon? 

Science Salon, a program of the Minnesota Academy of Science, is a forum for professional scientists to stay current on groundbreaking research and emerging technologies and engage in cross-disciplinary networking. At Science Salon, you will meet your peers from other disciplines, enjoy refreshments, participate in stimulating activities or learn about cutting-edge research. 

Questions? Contact: Lara Maupin -