XR and Immersive Computing
Believing that now is the time to expand upon the capabilities of Extended Reality (XR) systems research – which combines virtual, augmented, and mixed reality – Illinois Computer Science professor Sarita Adve found a new and collaborative path forward.
At this point, Adve believes the next step includes a need for multiple collaborators – the computer architects, system designers, and compiler writers, as well as algorithm and application developers – that could push this technology forward in a cohesive way.
To do exactly that, she worked with seven colleagues for a five-year, approximately $5 million grant funded by the NSF Principles and Practice of Scalable Systems (PPoSS) program. This multidisciplinary and multi-institutional vision is now a reality.
“The real promise of XR and immersive computing is in multi-user distributed applications,” Adve said. “Since this is a naturally distributed problem, all the work we’ve been doing on XR fit really nicely in the context of this call from PPoSS.”
Many people, she said, still have an instinctual reaction to XR as a source for gaming. However, there are many other applications for the systems this XR project will create. For example, there are transformative benefits for areas like healthcare, education, crisis response, manufacturing, training, and more.
“There are so many potential fields this technology can apply to, but just to focus on one for the moment, let’s think about healthcare,” Adve said. “We are now talking to physicians at the Carle Illinois College of Medicine right here on campus. They are already using XR for training their students, and surgeons in area hospitals are using 3D reconstructions for surgery planning. They all provide glowing reviews of the transformational potential of this technology but also say there is much to be done.
“We want to make this technology effective and comfortable not only within the local healthcare environment but also to enable remote and mobile hospitals to bring together physicians and patients distributed across geographic areas as a way to provide better healthcare.”
Illinois Center for Immersive Computing Proposal Receives Investment for Growth Funding
The future for an immersive era of computing, according to the project proposal, would bring “the possibility of digitizing (virtualizing) the physical world around us (as perceived by all of our senses such as visual, audio, haptic, and olfactory), of augmenting this physical world with digitally constructed (virtual) experiences and content, of interacting seamlessly with a mixed reality comprising a continuum of combinations of physical and virtual experiences, all in real time, with tetherless, comfortable devices for the end-user.”
“Although the term immersive computing stems from the new modality of interacting with computers, we use it broadly as an umbrella term. It refers to the entire application, hardware, and software ecosystem that will result from the maturation of technologies such as virtual, augmented, and mixed reality (AR/VR/MR), collectively referred to as extended reality (XR), the metaverse, digital twins, spatial computing, wearable computing, etc.,” Adve said. “Achieving the full potential of immersive computing and establishing worldwide leadership requires bringing together a diversity of disciplines and activities. The center aims to bring together work in immersive technologies, human factors, applications, policy, education and workforce development, jumpstarting new inter-disciplinary initiatives in research, education and workforce development, and innovative infrastructure development and deployments.”
The $4 million proposal was designed collaboratively and led by Illinois CS professor Sarita Adve. The center will include CS professors Klara Nahrstedt and Eric Shaffer, as well as ECE professor and CS affiliate faculty member Romit Roy Choudhury.