The VR Center (IT Service Center Virtual Reality), as part of the new building of the Data Center, is to have two experimental laboratories connected to each other by broadband network technology.
The larger of the two rooms is to be equipped with a multi-user VR environment such as the so-called CAVEs (cave automatic virtual environment). This is to feature a modular, reconfigurable, high-resolution, stereoscopic floor and 360° panoramic projection video component. In addition, a massive multi-channel loudspeaker system shall be installed to enable the implementation of different spatial audio reproduction techniques such as holophonic sound field synthesis (e.g. Wave Field Synthesis, WFS) or reproduction by multi-channel stereophony (e.g. Vector-base Amplitude Panning, VBAP). Balancing the critical requirements of high quality acoustics with high resolution video formats is a challenge even at the planning stage - often current systems are designed and built with either high video or high audio quality in mind. The planned environment will exceed the characteristics of the current FASP (built in 2006) by several generation levels in terms of performance and visual as well as acoustic resolution. Thus, a new type of flexible CAVE environment will be created at the TU Ilmenau, which corresponds to the current state of the art and enables the university to address current and future-oriented research questions. Due to its comparatively simpler design, the large room can also be easily configured for audio and video playback using head-mounted displays (HMDs) for single or multiple people.
In the smaller room of the VR center, a free AR/VR/MR experimental area is to be created. The video presentation here will be done by means of one or more HMDs. For acoustic playback, a massive multi-channel loudspeaker system for WFS or other playback methods is also planned here. Due to the tracking technology available in both rooms, headphone-based methods for audio playback can also be used in a simple manner, such as dynamic binaural synthesis. Using an HMD for video playback and speaker-based audio playback can circumvent problems of limited externalization of perceived audio objects in headphone-based methods. By networking both rooms and further laboratories of the TU Ilmenau campus, various types of interactive multi-user applications can be realized.
Media Lab 2 (ML2)
In 2017, the ML2 was expanded by high-resolution cinematographic camera systems (4k, High-Dynamic Range) together with a mirror rig for 3D video recordings and a motion tracking system as part of an infrastructure project acquired by the FG Electronic Media Technology (EMT) from the Free State of Thuringia (via Thüringer Aufbaubank TAB). In addition, the existing part of the ML2, which is designed as a virtual studio, will be upgraded to state-of-the-art technology in the future. In cooperation between the IMT and the Competence Center Virtual Reality (KVR), a replacement of the tracking technology of the existing virtual studio by the newly acquired motion tracking system has already been tested. In the future, these activities are to be supplemented by replacing the "Blueroom" with a "Greenroom" and a modular extension to a "Greenroom Cube". In such a virtual studio, so-called volumetric 3D recordings of objects and persons can then be made (see explanations earlier in the text). For this purpose, several additional cameras as well as corresponding lighting technology are to be procured in order to record different perspectives and thus generate realistic volumetric 3D models of the recorded objects.
For AR/VR/MR-specific productions as well as for more classic film and video formats with immersive recording technology such as 4k/UHD and High-Dynamic Range (HDR), the ML2 is to be equipped with up-to-date IP-based studio technology. In addition, it shall also be possible to record metadata during media production. For this purpose, the existing tracking technology is to be supplemented and an appropriate IT infrastructure for data analysis is to be procured, including the use of machine learning and artificial intelligence methods. As outlined in section 6, funding from public and university funds is to be flanked here by a longer-term development concept involving cooperation with companies from the environment of professional media production and IP-based production technology.
Audio Technology Lab
The Audio Technology Lab meets the high requirements of the International Telecommunication Union specification ITU-R BS.1116. The listening lab was expanded by financial means of an acquired infrastructure project to include 22.2-channel loudspeaker-based audio reproduction as well as a freely configurable suspension of the loudspeakers. The free arrangement allows the setup of all common current loudspeaker arrangements for home applications up to professional cinema arrangements. Furthermore, any arrangement (e.g. ring, area, single positions) is possible for the needs of different experiments and research work. An additional professional video projection (4k, High-Dynamic Range) allows basic multimodal investigations in combination with spatial audio and video. Furthermore, microphones for spatial recording of audio signals were procured, which enable suitable signal generation for multi-channel loudspeaker arrangements as well as for spatial playback via headphones.
Audiovisual Test Lab (AVT Lab)
The AVT-Lab was created in the course of Prof. Raake's appointment at the TU Ilmenau by converting existing laboratory rooms of the Department of Audiovisual Technology (FG AVT). It consists of three test rooms for performing measurements and subject tests on voice communication, teleconferencing and telemeeting use, and video quality assessment including audio playback. The three test rooms can be interconnected to perform multi-person communication tests. The rooms meet the requirements of relevant ITU standards such as BT.500, BT.2022, P.800, P.910, P.911, P.913, P.917 and P.920 acoustically and with regard to their equipment with appropriate light-grey walling and 6500 K lighting. Within the framework of ZIXR, these rooms will be integrated into the overall networked system.
Media Lab 1 (ML1)
Media Lab 1 is a professional audio recording studio. The previous Media Lab 1 of the Institute for Media Technology had to be demolished as part of the renovation measures at the Oeconomicum (building of the campus of the TU Ilmenau). It is currently unclear in which room of the TU Ilmenau this recording studio will be rebuilt. An alternative solution is currently being sought together with the Department of Buildings and Technology. In the new Media Lab 1, high-quality sound recordings, audio and music productions should be able to be made as before.
XR Lab Ernst-Abbe Center
Complementary to the VR lab currently under construction at the University Computing Center, the XR-Lab offers possibilities for empirical research of smaller AR/VR/MR systems, such as driving simulations for the investigation of novel mobility concepts like autonomous driving. Using these lab spaces, it is also possible to study interactive telepresence systems where different subjects can be in different locations.