Halden Virtual Reality Centre
IFE's virtual reality (VR) laboratory is situated in the MTO laboratory building in Halden, next to the HAMMLAB facility. The VR laboratory is both an experimental facility for studies and a testbed for new applications, but is also actively used for technology demonstrations and as a teaching facility.
What is HVRC's Purpose?
HVRC was established as a section in the Visual Interface Technologies division in 1997, as a result of increased demand for services prototyping control centre designs and developing VR-based training applications. These early activities were cutting edge applied research and development focussed on applying VR technology. From 1999, the scope widened to cover decommissioning planning applications, while at the same time shifting the balance of research from purely applied to a mixture of basic and applied research.
The main purpose of HVRC today is to identify potentially useful applications of emerging technologies and to investigate issues and address identified through experimental research and feedback from practical experience. The focus is on complex industrial applications, in particular for the nuclear and petroleum energy industries. The laboratory functions as both a testbed and experimental facility.
While research in HAMMLAB focuses primarily on the needs of control room operators for safe operation, the focus of HVRC research is primarily on supporting activities beyond the control room, as well as communication between the control room and staff located beyond it. The close proximity to HAMMLAB enables joint experiments to be run where HAMMLAB is used to simulate a control room facility and the VR lab is used to simulate activities beyond the control room.
HVRC Research Topics
Research has focussed on virtual and wearable technologies, design and ergonomics, human performance assessment, and collaborative technologies. The resulting technologies, methods, and recommendations support activities of interest to both regulators and utilities, including control room design and review, outage planning, staffing, and operator training.
The synthesis of the IFE's expertise in human factors and visualisation technologies, enhanced by an experimental approach to testing concepts, has resulted in the development of practical methods and recommendations, and has contributed to documenting the potential of advanced visualisation technologies to benefit the energy industry. Significant returns on investment that have been observed include improved communication and decision-making, reduced risk, and reduced costs.
Challenges include the development of effective user interface taxonomies for tangible and mixed reality user interfaces that combine 2D, 3D and temporal information with both live and logged data, information abstraction and visualisation, managing very large dynamic datasets and complex work practices, within a technological framework that facilitates teamwork and collaboration.
Our technical platform combines a mixture of virtual and augmented reality, gaming, and data management methods and technologies, however, in order to prototype, test, and implement solutions within the areas listed above, our fundamental research activities cover a range of topics that include:
- Collaborative virtual environments and virtual worlds
- Virtual humans and work scenario simulation
- Scientific visualisation and risk visualisation
- Terrain and natural environment visualisation
- Large dynamic data sets
- Virtual prototyping
- 3D user interfaces and interaction
- 3D data management
- 3D graphics, gaming, and simulation technologies
- Desktop displays through to large screen stereoscopic projection systems
HVRC Application Areas
Our research has a wide range of potential applications, however our focus is on activities in the following areas:
- Participative and user-centred design
- Outage and decommissioning planning
- Operations and maintenance training
HVRC has access to a wide range of technologies that are used to develop novel applications and to support the requirements of experimental studies. The following are just a few of the technologies available in the VR lab:
- Large rear-project stereoscopic display for life-sized presentation om virtual environments
- Front-project display for presentations and lectures
- Ultrasound, magnetic, optical, gyroscopic, inertial, and differential GPS position and orientation tracking systems
- Pinch gloves
- Head-mounted displays and glasses, both stereoscopic and monoscopic, and both closed and optical see-through
- A selection of wireless and handheld technologies, digital cameras, handheld and wearable computers
For our experimental studies, we use similar techniques for measuring human performance as are used in HAMMLAB, but adapted to human activities virtual and spatially-oriented environments. These include human and system performance measures, teamwork, mental workload, task complexity, sense of presence, social presence, spatial presence, and usability. Most studies are comparative or explorative in nature, with a focus on usability and human performance in a teamwork setting.
Our VR/AR software platform has been developed to facilitate rapid prototyping of application concepts and interaction techniques, and provides comprehensive logging of session data to support rapid post-session analysis.
HVRC section staff have a broad range of academic backgrounds including computer science, human factors, mathematics, informatics, electrical engineering, and mechanical engineering. HVRC uses a multi-disciplinary approach to both application concept development and conducting experiments, drawing on expertise in other divisions and sectors at IFE, and beyond, for industrial domain knowledge.
We have a close cooperation with both staff and students at Kyoto University in Japan, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Oslo School of Architecture and Design (AHO), and Østfold University College. (HiØ). We have also hosted student projects, given lectures, and participated in projects with many other universities around the world.