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3D UI Competition Announces Grand Prize Winner
May 2, 2011

A group of doctoral students in the Virginia Tech College of Engineering’s computer science department and Center for Human-Computer Interaction recently won first place in the 3D UI Grand Prize competition at the 2011 Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Symposium on 3-D user interfaces.

Felipe Bacim, a doctoral student in the Virginia Tech College of Engineering's computer science department.

It is the second consecutive first-place win for the team known as the Fighting Gobblers, advised by associate professor Doug Bowman. The team won the competition via a video they prepared for the contest, held in Singapore. Team members included Felipe Bacim of Porto Alegre, Brazil; Bireswar Laha of Konnagar, India; and Cheryl Stinson of Ottawa, Canada.

The competition required teams to develop a 3-D user interface for a difficult virtual interaction task. In this case the task involved solving a cube-shaped 3-D puzzle in a virtual environment. The 2010 Fighting Gobblers team, consisting of several different students also advised by Prof. Bowman, won the inaugural contest for successfully creating a program that allowed a user to “shop” in a 3-D virtual supermarket.

In this year’s competition, all of the other teams created systems that allow a user to virtually lift a puzzle piece from a collection of pieces and place it within the larger puzzle. However, the Virginia Tech team developed a novel solution called “Building Blocks” that allows the user to build the pieces directly inside the puzzle with a series of clicks from a handheld 3-D pointing device. As the user builds, the potentially matching pieces in a sidebar menu become highlighted. Once a piece is created that matches one of the puzzle pieces, the user can confirm the piece, causing it to become a part of the final solution. An additional 3-D device held in the other hand can rotate the entire puzzle for easier access and viewing.

This technique could be used to enhance users’ efficiency and reduce errors in cluttered virtual environments, such as the visualizations of scientific data, said Prof. Bowman.

Members of Prof. Bowman’s 3D Interaction Group also won the Best Paper award for their entry, “Rapid and Accurate 3D Selection by Progressive Refinement”.

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