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‘Crystal Ball’ VR System Supports Collaborative Tasks

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Researchers at the University of British Columbia and the University of Saskatchewan have developed a ball-shaped VR display that supports up to two users at a time, using advanced calibration and graphics rendering techniques that produce a complete, distortion-free 3D image even when viewed from multiple angles.

Virtual reality spherical display, University of British Columbia.
Virtual reality spherical display. Courtesy of Clare Kiernan, UBC.

The system, which the researchers are calling Crystal, includes a 24-inch hollow ball-shaped display. The display surface was custom-made, while four high-speed projectors and one camera used for creating the images, calibration, and touch sensing were purchased off the shelf.

The researchers are working on a four-person system and see many potential uses for their display in the future, including multiplayer virtual reality games, virtual surgery, and VR-aided learning. However, they are focusing on teleconferencing applications and computer-aided design for now.

“Imagine a remote user joining a meeting of local users. At either location you can have a Crystal globe, which is great for seeing people’s heads and faces in 3D,” said professor Ian Stavness. “Or you can have a team of industrial designers in a room, perfecting a design with the help of VR and motion-tracking technology.”

Most “fish tank virtual reality” (FTVR) systems have been isolated to a single-person experience, making them unsuitable for collaborative tasks.

The research was published in VRST 2018 proceedings of the 24th ACM Symposium on Virtual Reality Software and Technology, Tokyo, Nov. 28–Dec. 1, 2018 ( 

University of British Columbia professor Sid Fels explains how a globe VR display supports two or more players. Courtesy of Clare Kiernan, UBC.

Apr 2019
Research & TechnologyeducationUniversity of British ColumbiaAmericasimagingvirtual realityVRaugmented realityARDisplaysdisplay technologyConsumerCommunicationsteleconferencingcomputer-aided designUniversity of SaskatchewanBioScan

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