Würzburg University

Würzburg , DE - 2012

Barco’s I-Space helps investigate human behavior and emotions in crisis situations

How do people react in a tunnel fire? What is their mental state when they’re involved in a severe accident on a bridge? Are there ways to change their crisis behavior to foster their security? The Department of Psychology at Würzburg University uses Virtual Reality (VR) technologies to investigate human reactions to life-threatening events, such as car accidents in critical road infrastructures.

To ensure optimal research results, the department recently set up a brand-new VR Lab, featuring cutting-edge Barco gear. A multi-sensorial five-sided I-Space (3m x 4m) (visual, auditory and olfactory input) with six Galaxy NW-7 projectors (three walls with single projector, one wall in high resolution with two projectors and floor with front projection) and acrylic screens gives test subjects an exceptionally immersive feeling. Thanks to the high resolution and stereoscopic features, they feel as if they were really in the tunnel or on the bridge. Head Mounted Displays with head-tracking and eye-tracking features give researchers insight into the test subjects’ reactions.

The innovative research project at Würzburg is part of the German SKRIBT program, an initiative by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) aimed at raising levels of road safety. Besides for SKRIBT-related research, the Department of Psychology will also use the VR environment for other experiments and treatments, such as examining fear responses in anxiety patients and healthy participants or in exposure therapy for anxiety disorders. The use of a Barco I-Space for psychological testing in research projects is a first in Germany.

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