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INESC TEC inaugurates the most advanced virtual reality laboratory of the Iberian Peninsula

On the 18th of September, INESC TEC inaugurated the MASSIVE Virtual Reality Laboratory, the most advanced of the Iberian Peninsula in this field.

02nd October 2017

MASSIVE INAUGURATED IN VILA REAL ON THE 18TH OF SEPTEMBER

Located on the centre of INESC TEC at the University of Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro, in Vila Real, the inauguration was attended by the Minister of Science, Technology and Higher Education, Manuel Heitor, among other public figures.

The auditorium of the Science and Technology School (Centre I) of the UTAD campus filled up on the 18th of September for the inauguration of MASSIVE. The rector of the institution, António Fontainhas Fernandes, opened the inauguration. Afterwards, there was an intervention by José Manuel Mendonça, chairman of INESC TEC, Maximino Bessa, INESC TEC research and person responsible for the laboratory, and minister Manuel Heitor. At the table of honour, there were also Rui Santos, President of the Vila Real City Council, and José da Silva Peneda, chairman of the General Board of UTAD.

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MASSIVE was described by the Minister of Science, Technology and Higher Education as centre capable of potentially attracting youngsters to Higher Education and to scientific activity, thus helping to solve society’s main challenge, job creation.

Moments after, already at the premises of MASSIVE, the minister was invited to visit the Galafura viewpoint and to observe the Douro and the vineyards.

After this visit, Manuel Heitor took on the role of firefighter and trained under the conditions that these professionals can find in a burning room. The minister passed all tests and the visit to the laboratory went on with the remaining guests.

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Why is MASSIVE the most advanced virtual reality lab in Iberia?

Unlike other virtual reality laboratories in Iberia, which only focus on sight and hearing, MASSIVE stands out because it studies the stimulation of the five senses in virtual reality applications. This study concerns not only basic research, but also application.

At the lab, one can explore hearing, sight, smell, taste and touch through several simulators.

The differentiating factor of MASSIVE lies in the creation of multisensory virtual reality solutions capable of conceiving more credible and effective environments in areas such as education, training and certification, industry, tourism and health.

The laboratory is equipped with the latest technologies in the field of virtual reality, which are organised in four different areas: experimental room, multisensory experimental room, control room and survey room.

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The goals of MASSIVE

“The goal is to make the laboratory a space open to collaboration with the academic and industrial communities. We intend to support the competitiveness of the economy using the available technological solutions”, explains Maximino Bessa, researcher at the Centre for Information Systems and Computer Graphics of INESC TEC and person responsible for the laboratory, who is also a professor at UTAD.

According to the researcher, virtual reality can be applied to almost all areas and, therefore, the laboratory can play an important role in the development of new products, solutions and services, and even help evaluate current products in the market.

To this end, 20 researchers work at MASSIVE and form a multidisciplinary team in areas such as psychology, computer science, electronics and neuroscience. This team is expected to grow with the arrival of new projects.

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Current projects of the laboratory

Currently, the laboratory has three projects taking place. The HDR4RTT project is jointly funded by the Office of Naval Research, an agency of the United States Department of Defense, and its goal is to research and develop new algorithms for high dynamic range (HDR) images with the objective of robustly tracking and displaying, in real-time, multiple objects under extreme lighting conditions. As for the DouroTUR project, it seeks to bridge the gap between the potential of the Douro and its development, maximising the role of tourism in stimulating the local economy in a systemic and holistic manner. Finally, the FOUREYES line of research is linked with the TEC4GROWTH project and has the goal of facilitating audio-visual content obtainment, creation, transformation, distribution and access in a personalised, immersive and interactive manner.

The investment in the laboratory amounts to approximately €700,000. This amount was funded by the Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT) under project MASSIVE - Multimodal Acknowledgeable multiSenSory Immersive Virtual Environments (RECI/EEI-SII/0360/2012) and by the European Regional Development Fund under project TEC4Growth – Pervasive Intelligence, Enhancers and Proofs of Concept with Industrial Impact (NORTE-01-0145-FEDER-000020), which is part of the NORTE2020 programme of the PORTUGAL2020 plan.

The researchers mentioned in this news piece are associated with INESC TEC, UTAD and UP-FEUP.