Just when you thought virtual reality couldn’t be any more like reality, engineers go and find a way to let you actually touch and interact with the objects coming at you from your VR headset.
Researchers with MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) created a new imaging technology — Interactive Dynamic Video (IDV) — that allows users to poke, prod, and push the things they see in videos, MIT News reports.
Using cameras and algorithms, the researchers were able to develop IDV to look at tiny, almost invisible vibrations of an object to create video simulations that users can interact with.
“This technique lets us capture the physical behavior of objects, which gives us a way to play with them in virtual space,” Abe Davis, a CSAIL PhD student, said. “By making videos interactive, we can predict how objects will respond to unknown forces and explore new ways to engage with videos.”
In order to identify the vibrations, researchers say, they employed computer graphics to use 3D models of objects to build interactive simulations.
The team analyzed video clips to find “vibration modes” at different frequencies that each represent distinct ways that an object can move, MIT News reports, allowing them to then predict how an object would reach in different situations.
The researchers used IDV on a number of objects including bridges, a jungle gym, and a ukulele. By clicking the image, the researchers were able to push and pull the object.
For now, the technology requires users to point and click on a computer, but MIT News notes that if the system was used with virtual reality tools, it would allow viewers to touch items they’re looking at.
Additionally, the researchers say the technology could help filmmakers when working with CGI elements and assist engineers in tasks like simulating how buildings will respond to inclement weather or other events.
“The ability to put real-world objects into virtual models is valuable for not just the obvious entertainment applications, but also for being able to test the stress in a safe virtual environment, in a way that doesn’t harm the real-world counterpart,” Davis said.