Saarland University and DFKI Recognize Breakthroughs in Virtual Reality Haptics

Saarland University and DFKI Recognize Breakthroughs in Virtual Reality Haptics

(IN BRIEF) Computer scientist André Zenner, based in Saarbrücken, Germany, has made significant strides in enhancing virtual reality (VR) experiences through tactile sensations, earning the prestigious “Best Dissertation Award” at a leading VR conference. His groundbreaking research focuses on integrating physical proxies into VR environments to simulate touch sensations, culminating in the development of two innovative VR controllers named “Shifty” and “Drag:on.” These controllers employ sophisticated mechanisms to manipulate weight distribution and air resistance, providing users with realistic haptic feedback. Zenner’s work not only addresses challenges in replicating real-world sensations in VR but also pioneers techniques to seamlessly align virtual and physical interactions. Recognized internationally, Zenner’s research exemplifies the collaborative efforts between Saarland University and the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence, marking a significant advancement in VR technology.

(PRESS RELEASE) KAISERSLAUTERN, 10-Jun-2024 — /EuropaWire/ — The quest to enhance virtual reality (VR) experiences through tactile sensations has taken a significant stride forward, thanks to the pioneering work of computer scientist André Zenner from Saarbrücken, Germany. In his doctoral thesis, Zenner has delved into the realm of haptic VR experiences, exploring innovative devices and software techniques inspired by human perception. His groundbreaking research has recently earned him the esteemed “Best Dissertation Award” at the premier VR conference worldwide.

Zenner’s award-winning dissertation focuses on the integration of physical proxies, termed “proxies,” to render virtual objects palpable within VR environments. “The challenge lies in making these proxies versatile enough to represent a variety of virtual objects without sacrificing scalability,” explains Zenner, who completed his doctorate at the Saarbrücken Graduate School of Computer Science, affiliated with Saarland University. Currently, he continues his research at both Saarland University and the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence.

The core of Zenner’s work revolves around the development of two distinct VR controllers: “Shifty” and “Drag:on.” These controllers, equipped with sophisticated mechanisms and algorithms, aim to bridge the gap between virtual and physical sensations.

“Shifty,” resembling a tubular rod, features a movable weight that can be adjusted along its axis. By manipulating this weight, users experience changes in the perceived weight and length of virtual objects, augmented by corresponding visual cues. Zenner’s experiments demonstrate that altering the weight’s position relative to the user’s hand effectively influences their perception of virtual objects’ size and weight. Gaming industry giant Sony’s research and development division has already begun exploring the potential applications of this concept, citing Zenner’s work as influential in the evolution of VR controllers.

The second controller, “Drag:on.” employs a novel approach utilizing unfolding flamenco fans powered by servomotors. As users extend the fans, they encounter increased air resistance, simulating the sensation of interacting with objects of varying weight and resistance within the virtual environment. Zenner envisions applications ranging from wielding tools to manipulating heavy objects, facilitated by “Drag:on.”‘s dynamic feedback mechanism.

However, Zenner’s contributions extend beyond hardware innovation. Addressing the “similarity problem,” he endeavors to ensure virtual objects closely mimic their real-world counterparts. Moreover, he tackles the “colocation problem,” exploring techniques to spatially align physical proxies with their virtual representations. Employing “hand redirection” methods, Zenner deceives the user’s perception, seamlessly aligning virtual and physical interactions.

One of Zenner’s notable achievements lies in refining hand redirection techniques by exploiting moments of visual imperception, such as blinking. Collaborating with a student under his guidance, he developed software utilizing eye-tracking technology to synchronize hand movements with visual stimuli, resulting in more immersive VR experiences.

Zenner’s exemplary research has garnered international recognition, culminating in the prestigious “IEEE VGTC Virtual Reality Best Dissertation Award” at the recent “IEEE Conference on Virtual Reality and 3D User Interfaces” in Orlando, Florida. This accolade, bestowed upon the most outstanding dissertation in VR and augmented reality fields, highlights the significance of Zenner’s contributions to VR technology. Supervised by Prof. Dr. Antonio Krüger, CEO of the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence, Zenner’s thesis exemplifies the collaborative efforts between Saarland University and DFKI in advancing computer science research.

For further details, including Zenner’s dissertation titled “Advancing Proxy-Based Haptic Feedback in Virtual Reality,” please visit the provided links.

Background: Saarland Informatics Campus Home to 900 scientists and over 2,500 students from 80 nations, the Saarland Informatics Campus (SIC) stands as a hub for computer science research in Germany and Europe. Four esteemed research institutes, including the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI), along with Saarland University, collectively spearhead groundbreaking research across various computer science disciplines.

Joint Press Release by Saarland University and DFKI

Media Contacts:

Dr.-Ing. André Zenner

Armindo Da Silva Ribeiro, B.A.
Phone:  +49 681 85775 5280



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