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The Déjà vu of Virtual Reality Research

Student, Ilya Sandomirsky and the IDRL customized “Google Cardboard” VR headset.

Student, Ilya Sandomirsky and the IDRL customized “Google Cardboard” VR headset.

Chances are, you’ve felt it. Usually, it comes on suddenly; a familiar but disconnected feeling…. like you’ve been here before. Or, sometimes, it’s not just the place but it’s a series of events you’ve seen before, and yet, it’s happening right now. You can’t quite place it but you know it’s true, somehow. You wonder if it’s a memory of a dream or if, in some sort of metaphysical way, you’ve already seen this very moment… long ago, before it actually happened. You wonder if, perhaps, you’d seen into the future, only just now to realize it. You feel conflicted, torn between the possible and the impossible. It’s an experience that most people say they’ve had; déjà vu.

What if you could harness that déjà vu and use it to improve the outcome of a given situation? What if you could grasp that feeling, get clarity, and manipulate that knowledge and use it to make changes in the future? That is the work of the Immersive Design Research Lab. Improved virtual, augmented and mixed reality technologies have provided the tools to do a new type of advanced design research. The Immersive Design Research Lab (IDRL) is a mobile simulation space where environments and interactions can be tested, modified and adapted to changing conditions and human behaviors.

Through 3D video technology, 3D camera sensors, and sound and voice activation, it is possible for a far-away place to be transported into the Lab and made interactive and, thereby, providing students with experiences of places and events from another space and time.

Shanghai, China – 3D Video for HXDI research-photo, H. Barker
Shanghai, China – 3D Video for HXDI research-photo, H. Barker

Led by Associate Professor Heather Renée Barker, the IDRL provides the technology and exhibition space for collaborations with partners from both the city, academia and industry. Made possible by the College of the Arts, Department of Design, and ORSP, the Lab continues to be a valuable asset to students in the User Experience Design Studio. Assoc. Professor Barker has introduced 3D immersive video as a tool for Human Experience Design (HXD) research; and the Immersive Design Research Lab provides the space for both analysis of problems and presentation of solutions. Maybe… you’ve been here before.

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