The Reflective Journal on Research of the Virtual Objects and Devices


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Event: This journal is based on the week 4 lecture slide which is on direct manipulation and immersive environment.

Description: Since the early days of virtual environments (VEs), the search for actual methods for translating, circling and resizing virtual objects has been a major research target. Considering three‐dimensional (3D) VEs, these types of manipulations are not trivial, mainly due to the required mapping between traditional input devices (2D) and the VE (3D). Most of the common solutions resort to techniques that somehow relate the actions performed in the two‐dimensional space of the input device (e.g. mouse cursor or touch) to 3D transformations.

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Aiming to offer more natural interfaces, touch‐enabled surfaces introduced the possibility of directly interacting with virtual content. Although having a 2D input similar to mouse‐based interfaces, users are able to touch the virtual objects that they want to manipulate. Additionally, by allowing simultaneous touches, interfaces can have a higher input bandwidth, leading to new manipulation techniques.

Responding: Interactions within virtual environments often require manipulating 3D virtual objects. To this end, researchers have endeavored to find efficient solutions using either traditional input devices or focusing on different input modalities, such as touch and mid‐air gestures. Different virtual environments and diverse input modalities present specific issues to control object position, orientation and scaling: traditional mouse input, for example, presents non‐trivial challenges because of the need to map between 2D input and 3D actions. While interactive surfaces enable more natural approaches, they still require smart mappings.

Evaluation: Recent technological advances have led to an increased interest in immersive virtual reality (VR) settings. Affordable hardware for immersive visualization of VEs, such as the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Samsung Gear VR and Google Cardboard head‐mounted displays (HMDs), ease the perception of 3D content. Such hardware hinders the use of traditional input devices for interaction, but existing user tracking solutions make it possible to know where users’ heads, limbs and hands are in space. Over the past years, novel non‐intrusive and affordable spatial tracking solutions have been proposed. Such solutions allow for more direct and natural interactions, mimicking the interactions with physical objects

Analyze: The lecture slides show that a considerable amount of research effort has been dedicated to the challenge of allowing an easy and precise solution to 9‐DOF rigid manipulation in different types of VEs and that several issues are hidden in this apparently simple task.

No generic solutions can be derived from the literature analysis, as manipulation methods have been proposed and tested for a variety of VEs, designed for different applications and with different constraints given by visualization and tracking systems. Considering this limitation, we were able to provide an analysis of research trends and to suggest a few design guidelines derived from the literature and adapted to different environments and system constraints. We also pointed out possible future directions for research on virtual object manipulation

Conclusion: Examining the lecture slides, it must also be noted that experimental validation is often limited due to the objective difficulty and cost of setting up carefully designed user tests. For these reasons, experiments and comparisons may occasionally provide apparently contradictory results, often due to different setups/conditions, low number of subjects and many other factors. Standardization of specific user tests could mitigate this issue and better frame new contributions to the field.

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