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Mobile Hybrid Virtual Reality and Telepresence for Planning and Monitoring of Engineering Projects

Final Report One Page Summary
(Expanded Summary)

EPSRC Grant Reference No. GR/L06164 1 Dec 1996 to 31 Dec 1998 Value 232,005

Investigators
Mr Gordon Mair (PI), Department of Design, Manufacture, and Engineering Management (DMEM) Prof. Douglas McGregor, Department of Computer Science Dr. Richard Fryer, Department of Computer Science Dr. Arkady Retik, Department of Civil Engineering Institution The University of Strathclyde, Glasgow

Objectives and Background
The project had the following objectives. 1) To identify the scope for possible applications of hybrid virtual reality and telepresence coupled with mobile telecommunications, using the civil engineering industry as an exemplar for more general applications. 2) To explore existing analogous applications and to benefit from the experience of other industries. 3) To devise a methodology for use in construction, based on the new approach coupled with the application of video, voice, and data transfer to and from a remote vehicle and or fixed installation. 4) To illustrate the application of the developed methodology to practical situations in close co-operation with industrial partners through the creation and application of a prototype system. To achieve these objectives a system prototype was to be designed, constructed, and implemented in a Civil Engineering scenario.

Achievements
This two year EPSRC funded project integrated the work of three Departments within the University and utilised the expertise and resources of three progressive industrial organisations, Orange Personal Communications, Alvis Logistics, and Babtie Engineering. The resulting interdisciplinary project has produced a novel system combining virtual reality, telepresence, and mobile telephone technology, that has been very well received by industry and, via the media, the general public.

In November 1998 the system was demonstrated in operation between Boston Massachusetts and the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow. Using a small sub-notebook PC and mobile telephone in Boston, one of the system's motorised camera platforms was driven in Glasgow, this platform sent back live video to be displayed on the hand-held PC. The fact that all of this was done over the mobile telephone system made this transatlantic demonstration of very low bandwidth teleoperation and video a world first, and it clearly showed the potential of the system for the planning and monitoring of remote projects using mobile communications.

In December 1998, at a workshop held at DERA in Chertsey, the bomb disposal vehicle located in the University in Glasgow was driven via the mobile phone system. Live video was transmitted over the mobile phone link from the camera platform on the vehicle and displayed on the laptop PC.

The results of the project are unique. Live video from a remote site can be viewed contiguously with a VR model of how the site should look. Both views are from the same camera position. Thus actual progress can be compared directly with planned progress. We are sure that no other work on telepresence has used commercial mobile telephone technology as the communication medium, linked control of head slaved stereo camera platforms, mobile vehicles, and incorporated virtual reality, into one integrated system. The project has shown the viability of this approach and has stimulated considerable interest among the industrial collaborators, other industrial companies, and the public in general.

The system has been demonstrated to the industrial partners on a number of occasions, to a more general industrial and academic audience at conferences and seminars, and to the general public via the media and public demonstrations.

Please see the Expanded Summary for more details.

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