Researchers at the University of San Diego have developed cheap, 3D and tactile virtual reality, using consumer 3D HDTV panels. The Heads-Up Virtual Reality device (HUVR) uses the 3D HDTV and a half-silvered mirror to project t

actile images onto a user’s hands or the space around them.  A haptic device allows for physical manipulation of the image, and a head tracker can be included to generate the correct perspective.

The researchers see the device being used in disciplines where images of objects would have to be manipulated, like medicine, engineering instruction and archeology. They imagine how it would work with an MRI:

“By using HUVR’s touch-feedback device - which is similar to a commercial game control — a physician could actually feel a defect in the brain, rather than merely see it,” said research scientist Tom DeFanti. “This can be done over the networks, sharing the look and feel of the object with other researchers and students,” DeFanti said.

Without the head-tracker, the each HURV would cost around $7,000 per device, with $2,300 of that going towards the TV. The availability of consumer 3D HDTVs has driven the cost of production down from the $100,000 comparable technology used to cost.

The major expense that remains is the head-tracker, which costs up to $20,000. The UCSD researchers are working towards a cheaper replacement.

By Mark Alvarez