Dietmar Offenhuber (AT)
Horst Hörtner (AT)
Joachim Schnaitter (AT)
Christopher Lindinger (AT)
Robert Praxmarer (AT)
The dream of flying—an almost real experience. You are cruising above a computer-generated world, actively piloting by the movements of your arms, peering curiously about the region.
With the body securely enveloped in a scale-like outer skin that holds the aeronaut in flight position, and a helmet device equipped with a motion detector and two tiny computer monitors comprising a head mounted display (HMD) strapped on, Humphrey is ready for takeoff. The flight proceeds through a virtual fantasy landscape. The user's head and hand movements determine the flight path, which makes possible an especially realistic flying experience.
Humphrey's flight simulator unit consists of two separate computer processors that are linked through the Ethernet. The images are generated by an SGI Octane. The host processor reacts to the data transmitted to it by a magnetic field sensor in the HMD, the data glasses worn by Humphrey's passenger. The sensor sends out data on the aeronaut's head movements. The host processor also has a built-in sound card which provides the background sound effects.
The Pioneers of Digital Space
Thrilling experiences in the realm of virtual reality have been made possible by the pioneering work of the scientists who paved the way into virtual worlds. One of the most important was Ivan Sutherland, who developed the first HMD in 1965. This was a helmet apparatus equipped with sensors and small monitors suspended from the ceiling. Whoever strapped on that HMD was able to enter the first world of computer graphics. Sutherland's prototype was still far removed from the freedom of movement and minimalism of modern-day HMDs.
Myron W. Krueger, a guest at the 1990 Ars Electronica Festival, must have been familiar with Sutherland's experiments. In the early 1970s, he began reworking them in a totally different direction. Krueger did away with all instrumentation on the user's body and, instead, photographed him/her with a video camera. The picture of the user was integrated into a computer-generated image and projected onto a screen. Sutherland employed instruments like data glasses and steering devices like those enabling a virtual handgrip as interfaces with the computer system, whereas Krueger filled this interface position with the human body itself.
At the moment, it is Krueger's concept which seems to have established itself. Both Krueger and Sutherland reacted with their research to the changes taking place in computer usage in the late 1960s—the way from traditional applications to computer-generated environments.