Virtual Reality and Physically-Based Simulation WS 19/20

Virtual Reality (VR) is a research area at the intersection of computer graphics, physically-based simulation, and 3D human-computer interaction (HCI). novel interaction technologies and interaction metaphors VR and 3D realtime computer games share a lot of algorithmic challenges: in virtual environments (in particular, intuitive and direct metaphors), immersion and presence, and real-time rendering. Another important topic is physically-based simulation in real-time, which tries to simulate real-world phenomena such as fire, cloth, the behavior of rigid objects when colliding with each other, fluids, or objects made of deformable material.

Over the past two decades, VR has established itself as an important tool in several industries, such as manufacturing (e.g., automotive, airspace, ship building), architecture, and pharmaceutical industries. During the past few years, we have been witnessing the second "wave" of VR, this time in the consumer, in particular, in the entertainment markets.

In this course, we will first look at the fundamental methods, and then go on to more advanced algorithms that are needed to build complex and full-fledged VR systems or real-time computer games. Example topics are 3D interaction, physically-based behavior of objects, acoustic rendering, haptics, and collision detection.

The assignments will be mostly practical ones, based on the cross-platform game engine Unreal. Participants will start developing with "visual programming", and later use C++ to solve the assignments.
You are encouraged to work on assignments in small teams.

Some of the topics to be covered (tentatively):

  1. Introduction, basic notions of VR, several example applications
  2. VR technologies: displays, tracking, input devices, scene graphs, game engines
  3. The human visual system and Stereo rendering
  4. Techniques for real-time rendering
  5. Fundamental immersive interaction techniques: fundamentals and principles, 3D navigation, user models, 3D selection, redirected walking, system control
  6. Complex immersive interaction techniques: world-in-miniature, action-at-a-distance, magic lens, etc.
  7. Particle systems
  8. Spring-mass systems
  9. Haptics and force feedback
  10. Collision detection
  11. Acoustic rendering

Note: this list is just tentative and subject to change during the semester.


Exams will be on February 5 and March 11.


The following table will, eventually, contain all the topics that were covered in this class, the accompanying slides, exercise sheets, and frameworks for solving the programming exeercises. (This table will be filled week by week.)

Week Topics Slides Exercise
1. Orga stuff
Introduction: definitions, applications, immersion, fidelity, presence, body ownership illusion, history, Milgram's continuum, augmented reality, the hype cycle.
2. Lab meetings and assignments Assignment 1 IGR CSV template Orga
3. Scenegraphs: immediate / retained mode, semantics of nodes and edges, inheritance, special issues with light sources, shared geometry (instancing), thread-safe scenegraphs, distributed scenegraphs, fields & routes concept, types of nodes, nodes and fields (entities and components), the Phong model for specification of the material, indexed face set, OBJ file format, FBX file format, transformations, hierarchical transformations, behavior graph, routes & events, KV pool, PDF
4. Displays and stereo rendering 1: depth cues, human visual system and stereopsis, horopter and fusion area, multiplexing techniques for stereo images (polarization, shuttering, color filtering), immersive didplays / immersive projection technologies PDF Assignment 2 Video , Slides
5. Displays and stereo rendering 2: correct stereo projection, hypo- and hyper-stereo, model of user's head, issues with stereo rendering (depth aliasing, convergence-focus conflict, incorrect viewpoints, stereo violation, blur divergence, too much parallax), coherent virtual workspaces, automultiscopic display,
Real-time rendering 1: simulator sickness, latency and its sources, view-independent rendering, prioritized rendering,
6. Real-time rendering 2: level-of-detail techniques, static/dynamic/psychophysiological LOD selection, predictive LOD selection, progressive meshes, view-dependent LODs, PDF Assignment 3 UE Project Video
7. Real-time rendering 3: state sorting using online sorting buffer algorithms, the latency pipeline with conventional rendering, stereoscopic image warping, "asynchronous space warp", 3D warping
Input Devices: intrusiveness, degrees of freedom, multimodality, virtual trackball, isotonic vs isometric, tracking technologies, data gloves, locomotion devices, methods to classify input devices, logic devices.
8. Interaction techniques 1: Universal Interaction Tasks, approaches to design of user interfaces, hand pose recognition, the navigation task (wayfinding & locomotion), taxonomies as a design tool, abstract representation of the user for navigation, navigation metaphors (point-and-fly, scene-in-hand, two-handed, hands-free, walking in place, et al.),
Dies Academicus
PDF Assignment 4
9. Interaction techniques 2: 3D navidget, user models: power law of practice, Hick's law, Fitts's law; 3D selection techniques, iso-/non-isomorphic techniques, control-display ratio, go-go technique, task decomposition of selection task, ray-based & cone-based techniques, flexible pointer, friction surface (bent ray), balloon selection, selection by progressive refinement: SQUAD, Disambiguation Canvas, Point-and-Zoom, Expand, HorizontalDragger, PDF
10. Interaction techniques 3: object manipulation (grasping and moving), taxonomy of grasping, the manifold of hand postures, Natural User Interaction (NUI), DOF separation/reduction: PRISM metaphor and 3D widgets, action-at-a-distance principle, examples (image plane interaction, voodoo dolls), proprioceptive interaction principle, world-in-miniature, magic lenses, redirected walking and related techniques (body retargeting, amplified head rotation, spatial illusions), PDF
11. Particle systems: Newton's Laws, dynamics vs kinematics, Euler integration, phase space, definition of particle systems, forces from physical effects, non-physical effects, collision handling, procedural modeling of plants, PDF
12. Mass-spring systems: definition, single spring-damper element, explicit Euler integration, instability and error accumulation with explicit Euler integration, Runge-Kutta, Verlet integration, constraints, implicit integration, tangent stiffness matrix, comparison to explicit integration, PDF Assignment 5 Spring Mass Framework
13. Haptics: applications, devices, the haptic loop(s), the human haptic sense and human factors, simulation factors, haptic textures, the problems of buzzing and latency, intermediate representations, software architecture, impedance and admittance, the surface contact point method, voxmap-pointshell method, Lab meeting: presentation of interaction assigments. PDF
14. Collision detection: motivation, definitions, collision detection pipeline, broad/narrow phase, 3D grid for filtering potentially colliding pairs, separating planes algorithm (for convex objects), Minkowski sums, intersection test for convex objects based on Minkowski sums, hierarchical collision detection, bounding volume hierarchies, types of BV's, separating axis lemma for convex polyhedra, separating axis test (SAT), overlap test for k-DOP's, construction of BVH's using the volume heuristic, inner sphere trees, sphere packings, proximity computation using ISTs, penalty forces using ISTs. PDF
15. Sound rendering: motivation, human factors, mixing sound sources, image source method, beam tracing method, cell partitioning, the principle of Monte-Carlo integration, stochastic sound-rendering of large crowds. PDF

You can find recordings of the class taught in WS 19/20 here . The password is virtual2020.


Warning: these text books can only give you a general introduction to the field of VR! Most of the topics taught in class are not covered by any of these text books directly -- in fact, AFAIK there are some topics that are not covereed by any text book! Therefore, I recommend to attend class.

If you are thinking of buying some of these books, then I suggest to consider buying a used copy of them -- very often, you can find them at a fraction of the price of a new copy. The following are two very good internet sites for finding inexpensive used copies of books: Abebooks and BookButler.

Help and documentation on the Unreal Engine:

Online Literature and Resources on the Internet

Literature and Resources on X3D/VRML

Since X3D/VRML is no longer the platform for the practical exercises in this course, I have demoted the links to X3D/VRML to this place.

Readings That Have Nothing to do With VR, but are Still Highly Recomended

Gabriel Zachmann
Last modified: Fri Sep 11 14:57:46 MDT 2020