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AR/VR in Autonomous Vehicles: Five Year VIAJERO Project

Updated: May 19, 2023

The future arrival of fully autonomous cars will free drivers to spend more time as passengers.

ViAjeRo aims to radically improve all passenger journeys by using immersive AR and VR to support entertainment, work and collaboration when on the move. The project is led by Stephen Brewster, Professor of Human-Computer Interaction with Dr Mark McGill, Research Fellow in Computing Science and their team at the University of Glasgow’s School of Computing Science, and is backed by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (#835197).

The earlier stages of the five-year project required a portable motion capture system that could provide accuracy even in a moving vehicle.

The challenges

When VR headsets are used in a static place, head movements are easily mapped into the virtual world. In a moving vehicle the challenge is that the headset can’t decipher if the movement is coming from the head or the vehicle. Accuracy can also be problematic; if a sensor moves out of alignment by even a couple of millimetres it can ruin the calibration.

The Solution

Target3D recommended a system of three OptiTrack Prime 13’s, which would allow the researchers to position the cameras with sufficient overlap to accommodate the movement of the vehicle and to get a calibrated volume that was quite shallow; getting the cameras closer to the operator while recording the movements.

Installing the tracking system into a car enabled the team to decipher if movements were from the passenger or the vehicle - with the OptiTrack sensors providing the ground truth of the actual orientation of the user. The OptiTrack sensors were also used for the position tracking of the headset and hand movements.

After identifying where each movement belonged, the motion of the car was corrected in order that the user in the virtual world can still be looking at whatever is in front of them, even if the car turns in another direction.

Using optical tracking in the environment of a moving vehicle can be tricky, to say the least, and there were challenges in terms of camera placement, occlusion and calibration. Research Fellow, Mark McGill reports using clamps, suctioning sensors to the windows and even bolting them to the dashboard of his Mini, before testing on the streets of Glasgow! The limit on car sharing outside of households in the pandemic has been a more unexpected hurdle.

The Future

Now in the second year of the five-year ViAjeRo ( ‘to travel’ in Spanish) project, Professor Stephen Brewster explains, “We aim to revolutionise the way people travel. If you’re commuting for example, that’s boring wasted time. If there are more autonomous vehicles, we will all spend less time as a driver and more time as a passenger so what are you going to do? If you could put on your VR/AR headset then you could create an office environment with your monitors and keyboard wherever you are - you could be working more efficiently. Or, you could be watching a VR cinema experience ‘together’ with your friends who are in different locations.”

We’re trying to change the way that people would experience that travel time. We are really interested in tracking the movements of the person wearing the headset, and disambiguating movements of the plane or car or train from headset movements so we can design the interactions properly.

The University of Glasgow team will also be considering the challenges of confined spaces, social acceptability and motion sickness in relation to their vehicle-based VR experience. Mark McGill highlights, “There’s a particular problem in terms of motion sickness that we’re hoping to resolve. If you are using VR in a car, your perception of the movement of the vehicle is diminished (you don’t see the acceleration and orientation changes of the vehicle, for example) and that sensory mismatch is likely to induce motion sickness. We are looking at how can we deliver visual or other multimodal queues to the VR/AR user to prevent this.

"Target3D are very pleased to have supported Glasgow University in their tracking system choice," Allan Rankin, Target3D co-founder, comments. "OptiTrack offers a versatile, portable and easily integrated solution which enables Mark and Stephen to concentrate on their research outcomes. It’s a real privilege to be a small part of ground breaking and innovative projects like this one." The ViAjeRo team reflects on working with Target3D for the motion capture supply aspect:

Our experience with T3D has been entirely positive - we often need quotes at short notice and they have always been very responsive. Before the project, Target3D loaned us equipment which was really useful in enabling us to evaluate some of the technology before spending on a purchase. For VR & AR product advice, training, install and support for research or proof of concept projects speak to Target3D.



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