Fakespace Systems Inc. has launched advanced new products and technologies for working with three-dimensional (3D) models and computer-generated simulations. At Siggraph'99, the company presented several new user interface devices, developed to enhance the usability of visualization display systems when working with applications such as product design and engineering, task training, oil and gas exploration, scientific research and more. Fakespace is also showing a new portable virtual model display with a 4-foot x 5-foot screen, and the industry's first public demonstration of force-feedback technology integrated with a virtual model display.
During Siggraph'99, Fakespace showed three new user interface devices for use with large-scale visualization display systems. The NeoWand is an ergonomic, handheld input device designed for application in spatially immersive environments, such as the Immersive WorkRoom and CAVE. The device combines the functionality of a Virtual Reality wand or stylus with the familiar interface of a handheld remote control. It has eleven buttons which can be used to control navigation, the manipulation of virtual objects, menu viewing and selection, and other programmable functions.
The NeoWand was designed to function as a collaborative device, in order to let a designer or researcher click on a virtual object, or part of a model, and hand it to someone else for their input. For an automotive designer working with a computer-generated 3D prototype, it might be used to review various positions for a side mirror, or to place and remove several mirror models to evaluate their impact on overall appearance. The NavPod is a pedestal or a desk-mounted navigation device designed for use with large-scale wall and room displays such as the Immersive WorkWall.
The user grips each end of a 12-inch long horizontal bar while he pushes or turns gently in the direction he wishes to drive the perspective for viewing. Based on Fakespace's award-winning PUSH technology, the NavPod provides very intuitive steering for moving around a 3D-scale model, like a prototype of a car, airplane, physical plant or cityscape. Both the NeoWand and the NavPod are now available from Fakespace. The list price for the NavPod is $10.500 and the NeoWand sells for $5000.
The Cubic Mouse, a development of the National German Research Center for Information Technology (GMD) is another new device for interacting with visualization data. Demonstrations during Siggraph included applications for automotive engineering, geophysical exploration, and medical simulation. The Cubic Mouse is a handheld, cube-shaped device which enables users to manipulate huge sets of 3D data. Turning the cube in space changes the position of the volumetric data being viewed, and a click of a button freezes the position. Three rods that run through the cube's axes are used to set orthogonal slicing planes that can be moved through a visualization to reveal the interior structures. Fakespace has signed a letter of intent to license the Cubic Mouse technology from GMD, and will make it globally available later this year.
The Haptic Mini WorkBench is a virtual model display system designed to enable users to feel and manipulate the stereoscopic images which they are viewing. It provides force-feedback through the integration of the PHANTOM haptic interface from SensAble Technologies. The system was developed to demonstrate the value of hapto-visual techniques for the analysis as well as interpretation of seismic data, which is used by the oil and gas exploration geophysicists who must rapidly examine huge sets of data to determine if an area is likely to be productive. Other potential applications for this system include computer-aided design (CAD), assembly planning, biomolecular engineering, and education and training.
Fakespace Systems is also showing the newest addition to the ImmersaDesk family of virtual model displays, a portable display system which has to be introduced later this year. The H3 is a projection-based visualization system designed for "virtual sandtable" military applications as well as commercial applications such as seismic data analysis. The system, which breaks down into two separate modules on wheels, fits through a standard 33-inch door and opens to a 4-foot by 5-foot horizontal screen, in order to enable almost any room to instantly become a visualization centre. It offers the group-viewing capability of the Immersive WorkBench, being a stationary system, in a transportable, self-contained system that can be deployed from the folded position in just five to ten minutes.