New lab of UT computer scientists studies brain behaviour in novel situations

The University of Tartu’s new laboratory of computer graphics and virtual reality provides computer scientists and students with world-class hardware to conduct various research projects related to computer graphics and neuroscience. For example, the laboratory creates environments which differ from reality as much as possible to study how the human brain reacts in an unusual situation.

The lab has several world-class virtual reality glasses, available commercially, and additional devices which can be used to study the work mechanisms of the human brain on location and at people’s homes.

The researchers who work in the lab have access to the new commodity technology of the field. They have the new Oculus Rift virtual reality glasses, which are so ergonomic you can forget you are wearing them.

It is also possible to try out the HTC Vive virtual reality glasses, which came on the market in April. Their speciality is the possibility to walk around in a considerably larger area and communicate with the environment through special controller remotes. “This gives an opportunity to relate to the virtual world as naturally as possible at the moment. All of this is run by powerful computers, which also enable to conduct computer graphic projects that require bigger computing capacity,” said one of the leaders of the lab Madis Vasser.

Vasser said that currently the main running engine of virtual reality is entertainment: “But this technology enables to create all kinds of virtual scenarios imaginable. Therefore, on the one hand, we are studying theoretical research problems but, on the other hand, also the possible practical applications.”

UT Specialist of Computer Graphics Raimond-Hendrik Tunnel was hopeful that in the future, students will do their final theses at the lab and study which connections in virtual reality are good for gaining experience and which are not.

One output of the research conducted in the lab is to create environments which differ from reality as much as possible and study how the human brain reacts in situations which are different from the usual: for example, in situations where gravity works in a novel way, stable objects become instable etc. “This way we acquire new knowledge about the everyday functions of the brain and might answer the questions how brains with certain disorders could function differently,” explained Vasser.

In addition to the experiments done in the lab, in the future, researchers will try to apply crowdsource methods so that people at home, who own similar technology, could join the experiment.

The lab was opened at the UT Institute of Computer Science’s academic building in Paabel.

Additional information:

Madis Vasser, one of the leaders of the UT Computer Graphics and Virtual Reality Lab, +372 53950310, madis.vasser@ut.ee
Raimond-Hendrik Tunnel, UT Specialist of Computer Graphics, +372 55559463, raimond.tunnel@ut.ee

Virge Tamme Press Officer of the UT Phone: +372 737 5683
Mobile: +372 5815 5392 E-mail: virge.tamme@ut.ee
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