Collaboration between the iSpace lab at SIAT and Mechatronics Undergraduate Interns to design and build a unique, vir­tual real­ity multi-modal motion simulator

The iSpace pro­gram is cen­tered on inves­ti­gat­ing what con­sti­tutes effec­tive, robust, and intu­itive human spa­tial ori­en­ta­tion and behav­iour. This fun­da­men­tal knowl­edge will be applied to design novel, more effec­tive human-computer inter­faces and inter­ac­tion par­a­digms that enable sim­i­lar processes in computer-mediated envi­ron­ments like vir­tual real­ity (VR) and multi-media.

To tackle this ambi­tious agenda, we had to design and build our own flex­i­ble research appa­ra­tus, which con­sists of a motion chair mounted on top of a “cir­cu­lar tread­mill” (see illustrations/video below), which allows us to phys­i­cally rotate par­tic­i­pants and/or elicit com­pelling self-rotation illu­sions induced by bio­me­chan­i­cal cues from step­ping along with the rotat­ing turntable.

To design and build such a setup (which is com­mer­cially unavail­able), we started a highly fruit­ful col­lab­o­ra­tion with sev­eral pro­fes­sors in Mechatronics and employed three Mechatronics 3rd year under­grad­u­ate stu­dents as part of a co-op place­ment and later as RAs. Together, we started to iter­a­tively design, build, and eval­u­ate a world­wide unique multi-modal VR lab for perceptual/behavioural exper­i­ments (see pic­tures below). The first chal­leng­ing part, the con­struc­tion of the cir­cu­lar treadmill-based motion sim­u­la­tor was  suc­cess­fully com­pleted in 2010. This included the design and 3D mod­el­ing of the mechan­i­cal com­po­nents in solid­works includ­ing sim­u­la­tion and stress test­ing as well as the selec­tion and inte­gra­tion of the elec­tron­ics, motors, con­trol, gears, etc. and basic inter­fac­ing to a con­trol computer.

Together with my grad­u­ate stu­dents, we are cur­rently extend­ing and refin­ing on the 3D visual, 3D audi­tory, and subsonic/vibrational sim­u­la­tion. Below is a short video of a sim­u­lated ride through a vir­tual city that uses the inner axis to rotate the par­tic­i­pant to match the visu­ally sim­u­lated ori­en­ta­tion in the vir­tual envi­ron­ment. Note that the outer axis (ring) isn’t used in this demo.

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Biomechanical vec­tion demo video:  Stepping along the rotat­ing floor of our Virtual Reality Simulator can (after a few sec­onds) induce the com­pelling sen­sa­tion that not the floor, but one­self is rotat­ing. We are cur­rently inves­ti­gat­ing how best to use such self-motion illu­sions (“Vection”) to improve Virtual Reality inter­faces to make sim­u­lated self-motions more believable.YouTube Preview Image


Driving and flying through a pro­ce­du­rally gen­er­ated vir­tual city using Gyroxus motion chair: You con­trol the Virtual Reality sim­u­lated motion by simply lean­ing into the direc­tion of intended travel.

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Biomechanical Vection Demo: This was the very first test of our cir­cu­lar tread­mill: A blind­folded par­tic­i­pant is sit­ting sta­tion­ary while step­ping along the rotat­ing floor. After some time (the “vec­tion onset latency”), the par­tic­i­pant expe­ri­ences illu­sory self-motion (“cir­cu­lar vec­tion”) in the direc­tion oppo­site to the floor rota­tion, as if he is moving and the floor is slow­ing down and even­tu­ally becom­ing earth-stationary:

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[just for fun: iSpace Simulator Demo Video: Jay was jam­ming along on his sym­pa­thetic guitar while Salvar was driving/flying through a pro­ce­du­rally gen­er­ated vir­tual city.

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Mechatronics 3rd year undergraduates

  • Etienne Naugle
  • Adam Hoyle
  • Anton Brosas

Between December 2009 and Fall 2010, They did all the main work of design­ing, sim­u­lat­ing, build­ing, and test­ing the cir­cu­lar tread­mill, as illus­trated in the CSME stu­dent design com­pe­ti­tion paper.

Graduate Students (SIAT):

  • Daniel Feuereissen (co-supervision and col­lab­o­ra­tor since the project start)
  • Salvar Sigurdarson (inter­fac­ing cir­cu­lar tread­mill with con­trol com­puter, since Fall 2010)
  • Andrew Milne (3D sound and vibra­tion sim­u­la­tion, motion chair, since Fall 2010)
  • Amir Aziz and Mark Nazemi (video pro­duc­tion of intro video and video tuto­r­ial of cir­cu­lar tread­mill, Fall 2010)


Initial sketch of envisioned setup

Initial sketch of envi­sioned setup


First cir­cu­lar vec­tion tests on our new platform


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