Stepping into Virtual Reality || Architecture of Virtual Reality Systems

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  • 5Architecture of Virtual Reality Systems

    The creation of VR systems to support virtual environments (VE) is a chal-lenging problem requiring diverse areas of expertise, ranging from networksto psychology. Developing VEs is a very expensive task in terms of time andnancial and human resources. VEs can be applied in a broad range of areas,such as scientic visualization, socializing, training, psychological therapy, andgaming (for more details, see the Applications part of this book). Such adiversity of applications produces a set of requirements that make it very dif-cult, if not impossible, to build a single system that ts all needs. The resulthas been the creation of monolithic systems that are highly optimized to aparticular application, with very limited reusability of components for otherpurposes.

    According to Oliveira et al. [179], the problem of lack of reusability isdue to the current trend in the VE community: developing a new VE systemfor each dierent application. The reinventing the wheel and not inventedhere syndromes limit the innovation and delay the use of VEs in wider areasfor the general public.

    Monolithic systems such as DIVE [180], MASSIVE [181], NPSNET [182],SPLINE [183], and dVS/dVISE [184], among others, proliferated in the pastdue to the lack of system exibility for a particular application [179]. Theintroduction of more modular architectures led to the emergence of toolkitssuch as WorldToolkit [185], Avocado [186], VR Juggler [187], VHD++ [188],and Virtools ( These software suites have dierentdegrees of exibility. Frameworks like VHD++ dier from others due to itsspecialized skills in a particular domain, such as virtual humans simulationtechnologies. All of them are based on a hierarchical representation of thevirtual environment: a scene graph.

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    5.1 Scene Graph-Based Systems

    A scene graph is an abstract logical access structure, a tree. It is used torepresent objects comprising the environment (scene data) and the relation-ships between them. The scene graph consists of parent nodes, child nodes,and data objects. The parent nodes, also called group nodes, organize and, insome cases, control how to interpret their descendants. Group nodes serve asthe glue that holds a scene graph together. Child nodes can be either groupnodes or leaf nodes. Leaf nodes have no children. They encode the core seman-tic elements of a scene graph, for example, what to draw (geometry), whatto play (audio), how to illuminate objects (lights), or what code to execute(behavior). Leaf nodes refer to data objects. These objects are not scene graphnodes, but they contain the data that leaf nodes require, such as the geometryto draw or the sound sample to play.

    Scene graphs should not be confused with data structures used to do vis-ibility culling or collision queries such as octrees, BSP, ABT, KdT. Scenegraphs are used to connect game rules, physics, animation, and AI systems tothe graphics engine.

    Popular implementations of scene graph programming interfaces (APIs)include: Cosmo3D (SGI), Vega Scene Graph,1 Java3D,2 OpenSceneGraph,3

    and OpenGL Performer4. All of them were designed for creating real-timevisual simulations and other performance-oriented 3D graphics applications.

    OpenGL Performer is a commercial toolkit that evolved from OpenInventor, which is corrently an open-source project.5 Open Inventor is consid-ered the archetypical example of a scene graph library. It presents an object-oriented programming model based on a 3D scene database (scene graph) thatprovides a higher layer of programming for OpenGL.

    Java 3D gained popularity as the main scene graph-based API for develop-ing 3D applications with Java. It is frequently used for developing Web-basedapplications enhanced with real-time 3D graphics [189],[190],[191]. It is also avery representative example of a scene graph-based 3D toolkit.

    Scene graph implementations are based on a hierarchical spatial represen-tation of the objects in the scene, for example, a terrain contains a house, andinside the house there is a person holding a hammer in her right hand.

    Usually, the semantic information that is encoded in the scene graph cor-responds mainly to visualization aspects, geometry to draw, and associatedeects such as a sound sample. Only elemental relationships between objectscan be specied, for example, smart objects [192] (simple tools and objectssuch as a hammer or a drawer) that contain information describing how they

    1 http://www.presagis.com2 http://www.openscenegraph.org4

  • 5.2 Semantic Virtual Environments 109

    can be grasped by a virtual human and a predetermined behavior to perform(see Section 4.4.1).

    Eorts aimed at enhancing the adaptability and reusability of VE applica-tions and entities within them have focused on designing software componentframeworks to manage the resources and building blocks of a VE system.Such is the case of the Java Adaptive Dynamic Environment (JADE) [179],which permits dynamic runtime management of all components and resourcesof a VE system. While this kind of initiative is successful in terms of pro-viding reusability, and interoperability at the level of the code source, theydo not address the fundamental problem of reusing the virtual entities thatparticipate in the VE application. The use of scene graphs as hierarchical spa-tial representations is not questioned. As a result, source code implementinganimation, visualization, and interaction algorithms can be reused to someextent. But the knowledge associated with a virtual entity remains dicultto reuse. In [193] Gutierrez proposed the semantic virtual environments ap-proach, which considers virtual entities as complex items with dierent typesof data and knowledge associated with them.

    5.2 Semantic Virtual Environments

    The main idea behind semantic virtual environments (SVE) [193] is that ahigher-level semantic representation of virtual environments can enhance thereusability and adaptation capabilities of the virtual entities participatingin a VE. The semantics-based representation that is proposed builds on theconcept of a scene graph, with the dierence that it does not focus on visualor spatial relationships between entities but on higher-level semantics.

    The SVE approach is based on the semantics of the virtual entities and noton their geometry, as is the case in most of the VE applications. A semanticmodel provides a way to specify alternative geometric representations for eachentity and a range of functionalities. The entities are called digital items andcan be not only virtual objects to be rendered as part of the scene, but alsoindependent user interfaces and controls for animation or interaction.

    A semantic model of a virtual environment can be dened keeping inmind that the main attribute of a virtual entity (objects or characters) is its3D shape. Virtual environments are geometry-based applications. However,depending on the context, the shape of the entity can change. Moreover,there are contexts in which multiple shapes representing the same virtualentity must be manipulated and synchronized. For instance, when displayinga virtual character on a large projection screen, we require information forrendering a high-resolution (hi-res) 3D shape. Nevertheless, the hi-res shapecould be controlled by the user interactions performed through a dierentrepresentation, either a simplied shape or an abstract manipulator: a menu,a slider, or any other GUI control. Using independent representations foreach case is costly in terms of data synchronization. The semantic model

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    encapsulates the set of geometric and/or abstract representations belongingto each virtual entity and associates descriptors to inform the rendering andinterface systems about how to handle each object.

    Figure 5.1 shows a general class diagram of the semantic model for the VEand the tools that can be used to control and interact with it.

    Fig. 5.1: Semantic representation of an interactive virtual environment

    The scene is the main container of the VE model; it has references to thedigital items contained in the VE. It is the data repository used by digitalitems and other software tools such as viewers or interaction devices.

    A semantic descriptor provides human- and machine-readable informationabout a particular digital item (we also call them virtual entities). They arethe entry points for the scene controller to choose the correct geometry andinterface to present. The semantic descriptor is the placeholder for any infor-mation describing how the digital item is to be used and how it is related toother items in the scene.

    The geometric descriptor of a digital item species the type of shape as-sociated with the entity: a deformable mesh, an articulated body (joints andsegments), and the like. For instance, hierarchical structures for skeleton-basedanimation can be dened by the geometric descriptors, such as H-Anim,6 thestandard specication of a hierarchical structure for humanoid character an-imation. Moreover, alternative skeletons with dierent levels of detail on thenumber of joints and/or the complexity of the segments (3D shapes associatedwith each joint) can be specied as well.

    Handling alternative geometric representations for each virtual entity inthe environment is not enough to provide a complete representation of a vir-tual world. The model reects also the relations between entities. The semantic


  • 5.3 Generic System Architecture for VR Systems 111

    descriptors characterize each object or character in the scene and constitutea scene graph that can be used for both rendering and extracting the under-lying information about its contents. Digital items can contain other itemsor be related to each other in dierent ways, for example, entities that movetogether or that trigger events on other entities, the model is general enoughto express a variety of relations.

    A digital item can be controlled in a variety of ways: interactive controls(requiring user input), autonomous animation controllers (implementation ofalgorithms to synthesize some kind of behavior or animation), etc. A controllerspecies the interaction possibilities: predened object behaviors that reactto human intervention and the way to provide access (interfaces) to them. Forinstance, an interactive control can describe the animation to open and closea door and expose the parameters controlling this behavior. This informationcan be used to implement a variety of interfaces to access the same parame-ter: 3D manipulators or 2D GUI controls. Usually, digital items in a VE areanimated in either an autonomous or an event-triggered way.

    The virtual entities contained in a scene can be controlled and displayedin several ways. Dierent viewers and interfaces can be used depending onthe devices available and the information associated with each virtual objector character. For example, a single virtual character can be rendered as ahi-res 3D model in an OpenGL-based viewer or a simplied version can bedisplayed in a PDA screen, provided that the characters descriptor containsalternative representations associated with it. The character can be controlledthrough a 3D manipulator or a 2D GUI control. All the previous cited infor-mation can be stored in the corresponding semantic descriptor. This modelhas been successfully applied in the development of VR applications withadaptive multimodal interfaces. The work presented in [194] uses a graphicinterface to design real-time multimodal interfaces to interact within a virtualworld. For example, virtual characters can be controlled either through an op-tical gesture recognition system, which detects face gestures, or by means of aPDA, in a similar way as with the mobile animator [195] (see Section 7.2.3).

    5.3 Generic System Architecture for VR Systems

    In addition to the SVE approach explained earlier, other researchers and de-velopers have designed system architectures for VR systems. The main goal isto maximize the reusability of software and data while maximizing the varietyof VR applications that can be developed.

    Steinicke et al. [196] have proposed a generic architecture for VR systemscomposed of three main layers: application, graphics, and rendering.

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    The application layer is dedicated to create the VR user interface. VariousGUI (graphical user interface) toolkits can be used for this purpose, such asQt,7 Gtk,8 wxWidgets.9

    The graphics layer deals with 3D models (graphics objects) managedthrough a scene graph and controlled by behavior graphs, which can de-scribe event-dependent and time-dependent behavior in the virtual scene.Both graphs are contained in a canvas, which can be the equivalent of thescene container of the SVE model (Section 5.2).

    The rendering layer allows us to plug adapters for dierent rendering tech-nologies, such as OpenGL, global illumination software (see Section 2.3.2) likeRenderMan10, or POVRay.11

    An additional component in the architecture is used to control VR devicessuch as trackers or data gloves. In many cases, those devices are controlled bytheir own separate computer. In this case, data exchange between the devicecontroller and the main application is usually done through the network (e.g.,using UDP or TCP sockets). Network connections also serve to share datadescribing the virtual environment among several users, making it possible tocreate distributed and multiuser virtual environments.

    5.4 Distributed Virtual Environments

    This Section is based on the denitions provided by Lee et al. in [197] and [198].A distributed virtual environment (DVE) is a software system that allows

    users in a network to interact with each other by sharing a common view oftheir states. As users are geographically distributed over large networks likethe Internet and the number of users increases, scalability is a key aspect toconsider for real-time interaction.

    In [199], Molet et al. present an application of a distribued virtual envi-roment called Cybertennis (see Figure 5.2). This was done for the Telecomconference in Geneva in 1997, to illustrate the concept of DVE. Two users,one in Lausanne and one in Geneva (40 miles away), were playing tennis to-gether on a virtual moon, and the virtual clone of Marilyn Monroe was actingas referee.

    The approaches for improving scalability of DVE can be classied intothe following categories: communication architecture, interest management,concurrency control, data replication, and load distribution.

    7 http://www.gtk.org9

    10 https://renderman.pixar.com11

  • 5.4 Distributed Virtual Environments 113

    Fig. 5.2: Cybertennis in Telecom Interactive 97, by MIRALab, University of Genevaand EPFL VRlab [199]

    5.4.1 Communication Architecture

    Depending on how the communication is coordinated, the communicationarchitecture can be characterized as follows: client-server, peer-to-peer, orpeer-to-server.

    In the client-server model, all messages are sent to a server and then theserver distributes them to all or some of the users according to synchronizationrequirements. As the number of participants in a virtual world increases, theserver becomes a bottleneck. Even if additional servers are used, the delaydue to additional communication overhead in servers is inevitable.

    The peer-to-peer model allows users to directly exchange messages. How-ever, each user has to assume all the responsibility of message ltering andsynchronization.

    The peer-to-server model exploits the benets of the two other models.Consistency management is done by a server and communication among usersis performed using multicast.

    5.4.2 Interest Management

    Computing power and rendering speed are rapidly increasing; however, net-work resources still remain very expensive compared with computationalresources. To overcome the limitations of the network resources, variousrelevance-ltering mechanisms are used. Interest-management strategies ex-ploit the fact that users do not need to receive all update messages related

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    to the whole world. Instead, they receive only messages in which they are in-terested. Two methods can be used, depending on the delity of the messageltering: dividing the virtual world into several regions (usually done oine),or localizing the area of interest of the participants in real time.

    As proposed by Benford et al. [200], the awareness level between two ob-jects A and B can be dened by four strength values: As focus on B, Asnimbus to B, Bs focus on A and Bs nimbus to A. If As and Bs aurae donthave common components (i.e., there is no adequate aura intersection), thesevalues are null. Focus describes the observers allocation of attention. The con-cept of nimbus describes the observed objects manifestation or observability.The observers awareness of the observed is then some combination of the ob-serveds nimbus and the observers focus. Aura is dened as the subspace thateectively bounds the presence of an object within a given medium. Aura, fo-cus, and nimbus may all be multivalued functions, may have arbitrary extentsand shapes, and are medium specic. Figure 5.3 illustrates these concepts.

    Fig. 5.3: The aura nimbus approach for interest management in collaborative worlds

    5.4.3 Concurrency Control

    Shared information in DVEs is often replicated at each users site to provideacceptable interactive performance, especially where users are geographicallydistributed over large networks like the Internet.

    Replication enables users to locally access and update data. On the otherhand, the cost of replication is to maintain synchronization among replicas inthe presence of multiple concurrent updates, which eventually lead to incon-sistent views among users. As communication delay increases, the probability

  • 5.4 Distributed Virtual Environments 115

    of conicts between operations does as much. Therefore, concurrency controlis required to maintain synchronization among replicas. Approaches to con-currency control have been broadly categorized into pessimistic, optimisticand prediction schemes.

    The pessimistic scheme blocks a user until a lock request for an objectis granted and then allows him to manipulate the object. It is simple andguarantees absolute consistency. However, interactive performance can be de-teriorated by high communication delays due to an increased number of users.

    The optimistic scheme allows users to update objects without conictchecks with others and thus to interact with objects more naturally. How-ever, when conicts occur, a repair must be done. This increases the systemcomplexity and produces strange eects when undoing and redoing previousactions on user interfaces.

    When using the prediction-based concurrency control, the owner of anobject predicts the next owner before users request ownership of the object.The prediction is calculated on the basis of the position, orientation, andnavigation speed of the users.

    5.4.4 Data Replication

    In order to support real-time interaction, it is common to replicate virtualworld data from the server at the client. Each client then updates its repli-cated data by local changes or notication of remote changes. The initialdownload delay increases proportionally to the size of the virtual world. Toreduce the transmission overhead, several on-demand transmission (partial-replication) techniques are proposed. Instead of downloading all of the virtualworld objects, only the required objects are copied. Other approaches usecompression of geometry and image data.

    A key aspect in partial replication is how to eciently replicate the re-quired data, in order to minimize the artifacts (incomplete scenes) due tounavailable data. Two schemes are used together: prioritized transfer of ob-jects and caching and prefetching techniques.

    The prioritized transfer of objects lters objects within a users viewingrange and transmits only the objects that provide high delity to the userusing level of details (LODs) or multiresolution techniques. This maximizesthe graphical delity of world objects as well as interactive performance bymediating the graphical detail and the transmission overhead of the objects.

    Caching and prefetching make the demanded data immediately availablein a timely manner by exploiting the locality of data. This approach exploitsthe spatial relationship based on the distance between a user and objects. Itis based on the observation that the nearer the object lies to the user, themore probability it has to be accessed again.

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    5.4.5 Load Distribution

    Another approach for enhancing scalability is the multiple-server architec-ture, adopted in several DVE systems and in many commercial multiplayernetwork games such as Second Life ( or Lin-eage II ( Partitioning a virtual world into multiple re-gions and distributing the responsibilities for managing the regions acrossmultiple servers can signicantly reduce the workloads of individual servers.This enables a system to support more concurrent users and a larger virtualenvironment.

    However, nonuniform distribution of users over the virtual environmentwould incur a workload imbalance among servers. Some servers would handlemore crowded regions than others and suer from heavy workload and producelow interactive performance.

    To avoid such degradation of interactive performance, dynamic load dis-tribution schemes have been introduced: overloaded servers transfer their ex-cessive workloads to less-loaded ones. There are three main approaches: local,global, and adaptative dynamic load distribution.

    In the local approach, an overloaded server performs load distributionlocally with only its neighboring servers, whose regions are adjacent to thatof the overloaded server.

    The local approach incurs less overhead than the global approach becausean overloaded server requires the information only on its neighboring serversand incurs a small amount of user migrations. However, in the case of a highlyskewed workload imbalance (most overloaded servers are neighbored with eachother rather than dispersed) an overloaded server cannot give its excessiveworkload to its neighboring servers because they are also heavily loaded.

    The global approach can balance the workloads evenly even in a highlyskewed case because all the servers perform load distribution together withthe global information. A central coordinator repartitions the whole virtualenvironment using a graph-partitioning algorithm. However, the repartition-ing overhead and the required amount of user migrations increase sharply asdo the size of a virtual environment and the number of servers in the system.

    In the adaptive approach, an overloaded server balances its workload witha set of servers (beyond its neighboring servers) according to their workloadstatus.

  • 6Mixed Realities

    6.1 Augmented Reality and Augmented Virtuality

    In Chapter 1 we introduced the concept of reality continuum (Section 1.4) asa way to classify variants of Virtual Reality. Such classication depends onthe proportion of virtual imagery with respect to a real-world scene that isdisplayed in an application. We can distinguish three main categories: VirtualReality (VR), in which only virtual images are used; augmented reality (AR),where computer graphics are superimposed over images of the real world;and augmented virtuality (AV), where imaged portions of the real world areintegrated within a virtual world. The term mixed realities (MR) is used torefer to either augmented reality or augmented virtuality, since both of themcombine elements from real and virtual worlds.

    All the VR techniques, algorithms, interaction devices, and so on, that aredescribed in this book can also be applied in both AR and AV applications. Inaddition, an important component should be incorporated: a tracking mecha-nism. Tracking is usually done applying computer-vision and image-processingtechniques to data acquired using a video camera. The objective of trackingis to detect relevant objects in the real-world; acquire their position, orienta-tion, contour, and other visual features, and use this information to attachcomputer-generated images to real objects or portions of the scene.

    If an MR application is to operate in real time, where computer-generatedgraphics are superimposed on live images of the surrounding world, all theMR processes must be able to keep pace with the captured image frame rate.Knowing what is present in the real world and where is a vital component forthe eective operation of many MR systems. This description can be used toaid virtual object placement, occlusion culling, collision detection, or manyother visual or simulated eects. Building up and reconstructing this real-world description in real time is the main challenge faced by MR systems.Dierent tracking algorithms and techniques have been developed to solvethis problem.

  • 118 6 Mixed Realities

    6.2 Tracking Techniques

    This Section is based on the survey of 3D tracking methods presented in [10].In addition to computer vision, other techniques can be used to achieve 3Dtracking. Mechanical trackers, such as those based on exoskeletons (see Sec-tion 9.4.3), are accurate enough, although they constrain the user to a limitedworking space. Magnetic trackers, like those used for motion capture (seeSection 3.3) are vulnerable to distortions by metallic structures in the envi-ronment, and limit the range of displacements. Ultrasonic trackers, such as thePolhemus Isotrac, suer from noise and tend to be inaccurate at long rangesbecause of variations in the ambient temperature. Inertial trackers drift withtime.

    Computer vision has the potential to yield noninvasive, accurate, and low-cost solutions. Dierent methods with variable degrees of accuracy and ro-bustness can be applied.

    6.2.1 Markers-Based Tracking

    A popular tracking method for augmented reality applications is adding du-cials, such as LEDs or special markers, to the scene or target object to easethe registration task. This assumes that one or more ducials are visible at alltimes. Otherwise, the registration cannot be done. A drawback of this methodis that it is not always possible to place ducials. In fact, AR end users do notlike them because they are visible in the scene and it is not always possibleto modify the environment before running the application.

    The addition in the scene of ducials, also called landmarks or markers,greatly helps accomplish two main tasks: extracting information from theimage and estimating the pose of the tracked objects. Markers constituteimage features that are easy to extract. They also provide reliable, easy toexploit measurements for the pose estimation.

    There are two types of ducials: point ducials, which give one-pointcorrespondence between the scene and the image and planar ducials. Toobtain more information from each point ducial, it is possible to turn itinto a planar shape with identiable corners. A single planar ducial providesall six spatial constraints needed to dene a coordinate frame (position andorientation).

    Point ducials are commonly circular markers because the appearance ofcircular patterns is relatively invariant under perspective distortion, facili-tating their detection. To facilitate their identication, the markers can bearranged in a distinctive geometric pattern. This is the technique used bymost optical motion capture systems (see Section 3.3.1).

    Planar rectangular ducials have gained popularity because they yield arobust, low-cost solution for real-time 3D tracking. The ARToolkit softwarelibrary uses this approach. ARToolkit markers have a black border on a whitebackground to facilitate the detection (see Figure 6.1). An inner pattern allows

  • 6.2 Tracking Techniques 119

    identication of the dierent markers. The image is rst thresholded, and thesystem looks for connected regions of black pixels. Regions whose outlinecontour can be tted by four line segments are kept. Then each region iscorrected to remove the perspective distortion and compare it by templatematching with the known patterns.

    Fig. 6.1: Markers-based tracking using ARToolkit

    The whole process, including marker detection and pose estimation, canrun at 30 frames per second. The 3D tracking system does not require anymanual initialization, and is robust to ducial occlusion. Under good lightingconditions, the recovered pose is accurate enough for AR applications.

    ARToolkit can be a good solution for 3D tracking if it is possible to addmarkers to the scene. Due to its low CPU requirements, similar marker-basedapplications have been implemented on mobile devices such as PDAs andmobile phones [201], see also ARToolkitPlus.1

    6.2.2 Marker-Less Tracking

    In some applications, it is either undesirable or very dicult to add markersto the scene, for example, outdoor environments or unknown environments.In such cases it is necessary to rely on naturally present object features suchas edges, corners, or texture. However, this increases the complexity of thetracking algorithm.

    Finding and following feature points or edges can be dicult because theyare hard to detect, and in many cases there are not enough of them on typicalobjects. Total or even partial occlusion of the tracked objects typically resultsin tracking failure. The camera can easily move too fast so that the images aremotion-blurred; the lighting during a shot can change signicantly; reectionsand specularities may confuse the tracker. It should also be considered that


  • 120 6 Mixed Realities

    an object may drastically change its aspect due to displacement, for example,changes in perspective or appearance of hidden parts when changing the pointof view. In such cases, the features to be followed always change, and thetracker must deal with features coming in and out of the picture.

    3D knowledge is often used to ease the task of marker-less tracking algo-rithms. The 3D knowledge can come in the form of a CAD model, a set ofplanar parts, or even a rough 3D model such as an ellipsoid.

    Two kinds of approaches can be distinguished, depending on the natureof the image features being used: edge-based methods and methods that relyon information provided by pixels inside the objects projection (optical ow,template matching, or interest-point correspondences).

    Edge-Based Methods

    Edge-based methods try to match the projections of the edges of the targetobject to an area of high image gradient.

    Most of the early tracking approaches were edge-based. These methodsare both computationally ecient and relatively easy to implement. They arealso naturally stable in lighting changes, even for specular materials.

    One strategy consists in looking for strong gradients in the image around arst estimation of the object pose without explicitly extracting the contours.This is fast and general. Another strategy is to rst extract image contours,such as straight line segments, and to t the model outlines to these imagecontours. The loss in generality can be compensated by a gain in robustness.

    In the following example (see Figure 6.2), we can see an application of edge-based tracking methods for creating a checkers game with a virtual character.

    Optical Flow-Based Methods

    Optical ow is the apparent motion of the image projection of a physical pointin an image sequence, where the velocity at each pixel location is computedunder the assumption that projections intensity remains constant. The opticalow can be computed using the Lucas-Kanade method [202].

    Template Matching

    The Lucas-Kanade algorithm [203],[202] was originally designed to computethe optical ow at some image locations, but it can be used for a more generalpurpose; to register a 2D template to an image under a family of deforma-tions. It does not necessarily rely on local features such as edges or interestpoints, but on global region tracking, which means using the whole patternof the object to be tracked. Such a method can be useful to treat complexobjects that are dicult to model using local features. Although it can becomputationally expensive, it has been shown that under some conditions, itcan be eectively formulated.

  • 6.2 Tracking Techniques 121

    Fig. 6.2: Playing checkers with a virtual human

    Interest-Point Methods

    Interest-point methods use localized features instead of global ones; this hasseveral advantages. In the same way as edge-based methods, they rely onmatching individual features across images and are able to cope with par-tial occlusions or matching errors. Illumination invariance is also simple toachieve. But unlike edge-based methods, they do not get confused by back-ground clutter and they exploit more of the image information, which tendsto make them more robust. They are similar in some ways to optical-owapproaches, but they allow faster motions since no small interframe motionassumption is made. A representative example of this kind of method is theface-tracking system described by Vacchetti et. al. in [204]; their trackingalgorithm uses interest points and one reference image (initialization phase).

    Tracking without 3D Knowledge

    Using a 3D model as reference for the tracking algorithm increases its relia-bility, but it can be too expensive or inconvenient to have a model in someapplications. If no 3D knowledge is available, dierent image features shouldbe exploited.

    It is possible to simultaneously estimate both camera motion and scenegeometry without a 3D reference model. The recovered trajectory and 3Dstructure are expressed in an arbitrary coordinate system, for example, the

  • 122 6 Mixed Realities

    one corresponding to the initial camera position. This problem is known assimultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM). SLAM is a common problemfor the self-localization of a moving robot. Some approaches rely on projectiveproperties that provide constraints on camera motion and 3D point locationsfrom 2D correspondences. A representative example is the work presented byNister et al. [205].

    6.3 Mixed Reality Tool Kits

    The most popular solution for rapid development of augmented reality appli-cations is the ARToolkit2 or some of its variants, such as the ARToolkitPlusfor mobile devices cited earlier.

    ARToolkit was originally developed by Dr. Hirokazu Kato, and its ongoingdevelopment is being supported by the Human Interface Technology Labora-tory (HIT Lab) at the University of Washington; the HIT Lab NZ at theUniversity of Canterbury, New Zealand, and ARToolworks, Inc. in Seattle.ARToolkit is made available freely for noncommercial use under the GNUgeneral public license.

    An alternative to ARToolkit is the Mixed Reality Toolkit, or MRT,3 whichcan be rapidly applied over live video streams or still images to reconstructand register 3D shapes. The toolkit consists of a small library of C++ classesand may be freely downloaded and used in accordance with the GNU lessergeneral public license.



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