You won’t find sewing machines in Oklahoma State University’s high-tech Mixed Reality Lab.
Instead, students in the Design, Housing and Merchandising department that use the space are conducting research using virtual reality, augmented reality and three-dimensional prototype printing.
“We are one of the only schools in the U.S. that uses virtual reality in the context of interior design,” professor Tilanka Chandrasekera said Tuesday.
The Mixed Reality Lab started in 2015 before moving to a larger space when the College of Human Sciences building opened in 2016.
This past school year undergraduate students were tasked with creating a three-dimensional virtual dorm room from the ground up.
Students designed everything from seating areas and shelves to beds in the computer simulated environment.
“Augmented reality is taking a virtual object and overlaying it on the physical world,” Chandrasekera said.
An example could be searching online for a couch and being able to virtually move it around your living room to see if the size and color work in the space, Chandrasekera explained.
Students also have access to three-dimensional printers so they can look at prototypes of items they have designed.
Students also have access to motion capture technology, where an eight-camera infrared system can scan a person to help study human motion and muscle activity.
Doctoral student Mercan Haddad Derafshi, of Izmir, Turkey, worked with members of law enforcement using motion capture with the goal of designing a more comfortable duty belt.
Derafshi, who plans to graduate this summer and teach full-time at OSU this fall, spent a lot of time with officers observing how they use items on the belt and asking them about possible changes.
“So far, I’ve made small changes,” she said. “I’ve moved some things from the duty belt and put them on stronger parts of the body.”
Derafshi has heard both positive and negative feedback from law enforcement but is hopeful that with continued work, some agencies may consider it a viable option.
Doctoral student Gabriela Fonseca Pereira, 31, of Pelotas, Brazil, studies problems people face as they age and comes up with ways to help from an interior design perspective.
She is studying ways to monitor adults for safety reasons and looking at why many seniors aren’t using devices like floor sensors, which detect when a person falls and automatically calls for help.
“Research shows people prefer to age in place,” Pereira said.
Professor Aditya Jayadas said motion capture will be very useful as baby boomers continue to age.
“There will be 70 million people age 65 and up by 2030,” Jayadas said. “That’s one in five Americans.”
Jayadas explained that motion capture could be used pre- and post-surgery to see if or when a person’s gait, or stride, is back to normal.
After scanning a body to get human dementions, the technology could also be used to shop for clothes.
One could virtually try on a shirt or pair of pants to see how they fit their body before making a purchase, Jayadas explained.
“We are about solving human problems and enhancing human lives,” Jayadas said. “We have a big part to play in peoples lives.”
In addition to having driverless vehicles in the near future, Jayadas also thinks robots and older individuals will go shopping together in the next five to 10 years.
The lab is also conducting a research project aimed at helping people with balance issues.
They are developing an app that will allow users to use a virtual reality headset to exercise and improve their balance.
People could choose what part of the world they want to virtually exercise in and how many friends they work out with, Jayadas explained.
“It would be good for physical exercise, social interaction and may even create competition,” Jayadas said.
Jayadas and Chandrasekera are hopeful the program will continue to grow and said that the lab is available to other Colleges at OSU.
“The idea is to bring different disciplines together to see how we can solve problems,” Chandrasekera said.