Spectrum Logo
A non-profit publication of the Office of the University Relations of Virginia Tech,
including The Conductor, a special section of the Spectrum printed 4 times a year

Joint private venture applies new virtual-reality technology

By Larry Hincker

Spectrum Volume 20 Issue 29 - April 23, 1998

With assistance from U.S. Senator John Warner and Swedish Ambassador to the U.S. Rolf Ekéus, Virginia Tech Provost and Senior Vice President Peggy Meszaros announced Friday the formation of a joint private venture, Virtual Prototyping and Simulation Technologies, Inc. (VPST).
VPST will use virtual environments and simulation for training and for scientific or business visualization applications. The Virginia Tech CAVE, a 3-D virtual environment, will be a key element of the company's training and R&D tools.
VPST is a joint venture between the Virtual Reality Institute of Troy Michigan and Virginia Tech Intellectual Properties (VTIP). "Creating VPST allows us to reach out to the business and government sector and enables them to access Virginia Tech's advanced information-technology and computing capabilities," Meszaros said.
The Virtual Reality Institute is a division of Prosolvia, a Swedish-based corporation. Virtual Reality Institute, located in Troy, Michigan, is a center for virtual-reality training established by EDS and Prosolvia. VRI provides training and development demonstrating the value of applying virtual-reality technology to customers' projects. Prosolvia, the world's largest virtual-reality software company, develops and markets computer software and integrated systems focusing on interactive visual simulation, product development, manufacturing, and numerical simulation.
Virginia Tech Intellectual Property, Inc. (VTIP) is the technology-transfer arm of Virginia Tech seeking to commercialize research discoveries of university faculty members. Prosolvia and VTIP have jointly made an initial investment of $2.4 million in the new venture.
VPST will develop virtual prototypes, models, and simulations. For example, surgical training applications that require tactile and sensory interaction such as making an incision are being developed for a medical school. VPST's advanced computational training configurations actually allow the student to feel differences in flesh while viewing a computer simulation. In another scenario, multiple military personnel, such as senior officers in a combat situation, can interact in a real-time simulated decision-making environment from remote locations. Working with Prosolvia, VPST is developing virtual teller training for NationsBank, now the largest bank in the U.S. after its merger with Bank of America.
The Virginia Tech CAVE (CAVE is a creation of the National Computational Science Alliance and stands for Cave Automated Virtual Environment) is one of only 14 CAVE's in the nation. It affords researchers and product developers with a unique three-dimensional virtual environment--literally a room of virtual reality supported by massive computational power.
The Virtual Reality Institute has used virtual environments in conjunction with automotive stylists who can then sit in numerous computer-generated interiors long before a clay model is cast or a prototype is produced, drastically reducing the number of prototypes prior to production.
Using the CAVE architecture, professors and students at Virginia Tech re-created a virtual interior of a long-lost gothic cathedral at Cluny, which was destroyed in the French Revolution. For the first time in 200 years someone "walked through" the church nave.
Using this same technology Virginia Tech scientists can "walk" around a DNA structure thousands of times larger than reality and see how these complex structures relate to life-giving properties such as delivering oxygen to living cells with myoglobin proteins.
Virginia Tech's CAVE scientists envision research or education applications in many different fields including biology, biochemistry, architecture, medicine, fluid mechanics, interior design, art or art history, materials science. Training or product applications would include flight, automotive, or naval simulations and product prototype development.