Day 2 @ Laval Virtual = Fire

By Kate

Hi. It’s day two at Laval Virtual and there are even more people circulating around the show floor. Today I’d like to showcase another example of how virtual reality is being used in the industrial world (although I’m tempted to tell you about the mixed reality bad breath game).

Virtual reality can be applied even to the most mundane things, like wooden pallets. Who even thinks about these? If you’ve ever been to IKEA you’ve walked by them in the warehouse/check out section. If you’ve ever been to the grocery store when they’re bringing in forklifted stacks of boxes packed with canned goods, you’ve seen them.

Have you ever thought about burning wooden pallets?

Well I can tell you that at least the pallet handling and logistics company Planet Pal has, and so has their insurance provider.

Planet Pal wanted to build a VR application to help them analyze a plethora of pallet burning scenarios, without burning away a plethora of physical and monetary resources.

They’ve partnered with some graduate students studying in the VR masters program at MNRV here in Laval, France. Three female students were assigned to the project. (I’m highlighting the female bit because the virtual reality industry is a very masculine world, so if you’re a young woman and interested in working in VR, go for it! There’s great work to be done.) They named the application Virtual Fire.

In the case of the Laval Virtual demo everything “takes place” in the virtual replication of a real warehouse facility stockyard. Here’s how it works:

1. With your computer mouse, select the type of pallet you’d like to test and place it anywhere in the virtual environment. You can stack up to 50 pallets in one tower. Add as many pallet stacks that you’d like and arrange them together.
2. Select the fire (comes as a red triangle until you activate the burning) and place it where you’d like the fire to start.
3. Select the wind force and direction.
4. Start the fire.

Before your eyes, the poor wooden pallets will burn at an astonishingly fast rate. During my demo they were gone in 28 seconds. Like that. The application gives a sort of “score” after the experiment, showing you stats on the wind, stacks and burn time.

Here’s where the serious gaming part shines. You can repeat the exercise with the same wind conditions and fire origin (or other), but this time put more space between your stacks. See what happens. And tweak until you save the maximum number of stacks.

Today Virtual Fire is a prototype. Planet Pal plans to use it to prove to its insurance provider that the company is aware and sensitive to fire hazards, which is good for keeping its insurance coverage. And not only that, they’ll be able to apply the knowledge learned from the virtual experiments to create safer real-life pallet scenarios.

The developers told me they will be evolving the application to include other elements like geolocalisation, which links to fire factors such as air humidity and the types of winds you may expect at certain locations.

I always like to dream about future innovation possibilities, so imagine if a pallet fire spreads to neighboring homes or businesses? How many seconds or minutes would it take for an entire block to go down in flames? I think this would be really useful information for municipal planners and firemen, and of course us citizens who would benefit from safer communities!

So while wooden pallets may seem mundane, I think we all agree that fires are anything but that. Virtual Fire is another cool, or should I say hot, example of how virtual reality can help us live better lives.

Many thanks to the developers Lucie Coudurier, Nadège Carlier and Emilie Brisseau for such an elegant and useful VR application. Thanks also to the students at the Institute for Applied Mathematics who developed the fire algorithm, the secret to making the virtual fire scientifically realistic.



P.S. BTW, the developers used 3DVIA Virtools to create Virtual Fire.

Live from Laval Virtual Day 1: R-Screen

By Kate

Hi! I’m blogging from Laval Virtual, and as I type I can hear a virtual cat meowing. There’s lots of fun and crazy stuff going on over here, but today I wanted to highlight an “I spy” that I find particularly interesting for the automotive industry, and most importantly, car buyers like you and me.

R-Screen is a first-of-a-kind VR application allowing consumers to visit a car virtually, showroom style. What I mean is, rather than being in a VR cave or in front of a large, static immersive screen, you must physically walk around the virtual car to see it. Hint, there’s a pivoting screen involved, but you’ll understand better when you watch the video.

“So what?” you may be wondering, but consider the possibilities. Rather compact (3 x 2 meters), R-Screen could be used to:

  • Demo mobility concepts at shows without production. This provides OEMs an opportunity to save resources.
  • Showcase several cars in one spot. A different car, a different audience/day, same show floor real estate.
  • Try and buy new models before they’re in circulation. Want to get a feel for that new Renault model not yet available at the dealership near you? R-Screen lets you do this.
  • Test personalization options and features. You think you’ll like the model in red with an integrated GPS system? Well you may not once you pick up your new car. You can try on all kinds of options virtually before purchasing.

Here’s a little video so you too can take the tour:

YouTube Preview Image

Now I can’t help wondering . . . Imagine being at your favorite dealership near you. With an evolved version of the the R-Screen, you select a car body that best suits your personality and needs. Then you pick from a list of engines that fit within the body. Then interior options, etc. etc. You’ve designed a “My Car” that isn’t necessarily on the vendor list. When you’re satisfied, you click a button. Your choices synch with the PLM metadata, and someone on the production side clicks another button and your “My Car” gets made and shipped to the dealership. No more advance production, storing and shipping. And you get exactly what you want.

Perhaps I’m dreaming a little, but I see this as a possibility for future innovations. What do you think?

Let me know if you’re at Laval Virtual. I’d love to meet up with you!

More to come tomorrow . . .


P.S. R-Screen was made with several 3DVIA Virtools modules, including their VR pack. CLARTE came up with the concept and developed it, and Renault holds the patent.

Virtual Reality Series: Interviews & I Spy

By Kate

Does anyone not like virtual reality? I love it and am fascinated that we can trick the human brain into thinking something’s real that isn’t and even shape our brains. And virtual reality’s more than “just for fun.” There are some serious applications out there!

Whether you’re already a VR addict or have a burgeoning curiosity on the matter, well we’ve got some goodness in store for you over the next few weeks.

This week I’ll be blogging live from Laval Virtual, sharing cool applications as I spy them. As part of the series I’ll also be sharing interviews conducted with some of the VR industry’s leaders. I’ve spoken with a mix of folks from the French Association of Virtual Reality and have some interesting perspectives to share on topics as diverse as gear, research, and my favorite, future predictions.

It’s only appropriate however that I start by introducing you to David, and for two reasons. For one, David is Dassault Systèmes’ 3DVIA immersive virtuality domain leader and VR products manager. In that regard, he’s kindly offered to be my tour guide at Laval Virtual. Secondly, David is a member of the French Association of Virtual Reality, and in this role I’ve interviewed him about VR.

Here’s what I asked David:

  • What’s the difference between Virtual Reality and Immersive Virtuality?
  • What are today’s innovations in the virtual reality industry?
  • What will happen to virtual reality as augmented reality and mixed reality become more mainstream?
  • What link does Dassault Systèmes have with VR/immersive virtuality?

Here’s a transcription of the video interview:

Q1: What’s the difference between Virtual Reality and Immersive Virtuality?

Immersive Virtuality is sort of a new term. I started using it as much as I could because people use the term Virtual Reality in a way that doesn’t really describe what it is in the sense that for us, for me and the community of people working on this topic, virtual reality is about immersion. By immersion I mean that the point is to have the body and the sensorial dimension as the central points and not much the virtual. Some people use too much VR, or virtual reality, to describe things like Second Life or QuickTime Via, or whatever. So we started to use Immersive Virtualty as a way to describe what VR really is.

Q2: What are today’s innovations in the virtual reality industry?

The driver of innovation in the VR industry comes from the entertainment world, video gaming, digital cinema, all that. Basically we’re seeing kind of a revolution in the sense that within the gaming world, for example, you find more and more interactions that are engaging the body, and this is what VR is about. Of course there’s the Wii, but there are a lot of new devices and technologies based on this vision that comes from the gaming world. You’ve also got the setup boxes, and also what is being driven by digital cinema that is really moving towards stereoscopy, that is, stereovision. There’s a strong push from Hollywood, and this drives everyone to buy new stereo displays for home. And if you put this together with body tracking devices , you get what VR is about. Sensing and acting, perceiving and acting in the virtual world with your body.

Q3: What will happen to virtual reality as augmented reality and mixed reality become more mainstream?

There’s a continuum between VR and Augmented Reality and Mixed Reality. It’s basically how much you put the virtual and the real together inside a given immersive experiment. So basically we’re talking about the same things. Because we have more and more VR technology that comes from progress in the visual world, we’re getting closer and closer to AR when we do VR. But basically you’re mixing a real human, his real surroundings, which are where he’s standing, what he’s manipulating with his real hands, and the virtual worlds. And no matter where you put the focus, it’s basically the same technology. They’re going to grow together.

Q4: What link does Dassault Systèmes have with VR/immersive virtuality?

DS is probably one of the most important VR software editors by acquiring Virtools, which is a leading solution for immersive technologies. Dassault Systèmes has jumped into this world that was not that much a focus point before Virtools joined the group. And now all this technology, these usages are becoming central at Dassault Systèmes. We’ve invested in a very high-end immersive showroom to demonstrate solutions for our customers that would include immersive technologies within our solutions, industries and services.

If you’d like more information about Laval Virtual or would like to visit the 3DVIA booth this week, all the details can be found on the 3DVIA blog post: Love Virtual Reality? Visit 3dvia at Laval Virtual 2009.



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