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Special Joint BIO-CS Seminar

4:16 PM on January 29, 2021

Special Joint BIO-CS Seminar

Presence in Virtual Environments and its Applications

Amitabh Varshney
U. Maryland at College Park

*special day/time/Zoom*
Feb 4, Thu, 3:30pm

A striking attribute of a virtual reality experience is the feeling of
being present in that environment, even when one is physically
elsewhere. This notion of presence is central to virtual environments,
for evaluation of their effectiveness as well as their quality. In this
talk, I will present recent research that facilitates and builds upon
the illusion of presence in virtual environments.

Research in cognitive psychology suggests that the mind is inherently
embodied. The egocentric illusion of presence afforded by immersion can
be used to assist in recall. Our research shows how this effect can be
used in virtual memory palaces.

Immersion in virtual environments has also been anecdotally applied to
improve acute symptoms in contexts such as battlefields, emergency
rooms, and operating rooms. A recent study of ours provides a
mechanistic framework for VR as a low-risk, nonpharmacological
intervention, which regulates autonomic, affective (mood and situational
anxiety), and evaluative (subjective pain and enjoyment ratings)
responses associated with acute pain.

However, the illusion of presence can also lead to cybersickness, such
as when experiencing virtual motion while standing still, due to the
(vection) mismatch between ocular and vestibular sensory cues. Without a
reliable way to measure and interactively quantify cybersickness from
one moment to the next, understanding and mitigating it remains a
challenge. Using EEG, we have established that vection-induced
cybersickness in an immersive HMD is correlated with specific brain-wave

An important component of interactive human communication in virtual
environments is sustaining the illusion of presence through creation of
cinematic-quality virtual environments. Our research on multi-camera
arrays presents a practical solution for acquiring real-time seamless
texture montages for dynamic multiview reconstruction.

About the Speaker

Amitabh Varshney is Dean of the College of Computer, Mathematical and
Natural Sciences, and Professor of Computer Science at the University of
Maryland at College Park. He received a B. Tech. in Computer Science
from the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, and a M.S. and Ph.D. in
Computer Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Research Interests include: Augmented and Virtual Reality, 3D Computer
Graphics and Scientific Visualization, Molecular Graphics,
High-Performance Computing, Computational Geometry. He is a Fellow of IEEE.