Glenn Martin in the VR testbedIST's Glenn Martin Receives Research Incentive Award
for Work in Interactive Virtual Reality

Research associate Glenn Martin is “Captain VR” at UCF’s Institute for Simulation & Training. The university recently rewarded Martin’s investigations into virtual reality simulation with a prestigious Research Incentive Award. 

Martin began his association with IST in 1992, with a bachelor’s degree in computer science from UCF and an assignment as a graduate research assistant in visual systems and dynamic environments (virtual surroundings that change when influenced by user actions... He picked up his master’s in computer science in 1995 and joined IST’s staff as a full-time researcher and became a research associate in 1998.

The Research Incentive Award, one of a limited number provided by UCF each year, is for Martin’s achievements in dynamic, multimodal environments and after action review software.

One product of Martin's research, available at no charge for download and use, is the "Virtual Environment Software Sandbox," VESS, a software suite of libraries used to build simulations. The latest version (4.0.0)includes a number of new capabilities including support for programmable shading, avatar skinning algorithms for improved visual avatars, multi-texturing, pixel buffers for off-screen rendering, voice management capability for sounds, an enhanced collision detection algorithm for articulated objects (to support grabbing objects within the virtual environment), support for inverse kinematics, and a new "on screen" 2-D and 3-D menu system.

VESS provides behaviors and motion models to allow the user to manipulate his or her viewpoint as well as control and interact with objects in the virtual environment. Also, VESS provides a seamless audio API that integrates directly into the VESS scene graph, giving developers the ability to easily add sound to the environment (including moving objects). The software also includes other useful routines such as collision detection and terrain following. You can find out more about and get a copy of VESS here.

Martin's work in recording and replaying the events during a training simulation led to the creation of the "Dismounted Infantry Virtual After Action Review System."  The AAR system has gained high marks from soldiers at the various Army posts where the system has aided post exercise debriefings and stirred interest in representatives from cognitive science and teacher training domains.

Martin's newest challenge is to lead his Interactive Realities lab into highly flexible new architecture for the study of networked interactive collaborative environments, with the focus on interactive rather than passive experience.



Virtual Check Ride May Train and Test Tomorrow's Truck Driver

subject operates a three-screen simulator that can be configured as a big rig, a police cruiser, or any number of vehicle types. A UCF partnership with Florida transportation entities and the trucking industry promises to pay dividends for major fleet operators faced with training, testing, licensing and re-certifying their drivers. University research may result in more capable operators and safer roads as well.

Overcrowding at your local driver license office is nothing compared to the backlog of commercial license applications. Florida is among the many states with a waiting time of up to six months for an appointment to take the commercial driver's test.

It goes without saying that the cost is high for on-the-road testing.

In collaboration with UCF's Center for Advanced Transportation Systems Simulation, researchers in IST's Advanced Learning Technologies group created the "Virtual Check-Ride System" (VCRS) as an efficient, cost-effective way to diagnose, test and re-certify commercial drivers, many of whom were "grandfathered in" and have never taken the off-road and on-road driving portions of the exam.

With the assistance of subject matter experts and industry leaders, the VCRS team devised a system with two components: driving simulator and computer-based training. The team created several different driving scenarios that effectively replicate actual commercial truck driving off-road and on-road requirements.

This cost-effective medium level driving simulator provides enough realism to test knowledge of safety and road rules.The computer based training component has two parts, a 55-question general knowledge test and a virtual walk-around inspection that tests a driver's ability to locate equipment defects as they "move around" an on-screen truck. Once an individual completes the Knowledge and Pre/Post Trip Walk-Around Inspection phases of the CBT component, they then complete the “Check-Ride” on a truck driving simulator. At the completion of the two parts, the driver is given an AAR (After-Action-Review) that clearly identifies individual weaknesses. At this point, drivers may be referred for individual training or remediation according to their individual AAR or can be issued a passing CDL exam completion certification. They then take the completion certification to the licensing authority to obtain their CDL or to re-test their off-road and on-road portion of the exam. A page from the computer-based instrument that reveals an applicant's knowledge of inspection points.

The Advanced Learning Technologies group is experimenting with several levels of simulator sophistication to measure several training effectiveness variables. At the basic level is the PC simulator which currently uses off-the-shelf joy stick and steering wheel controls. A more realistic and dynamically correct steering system is being engineered and should make this level of simulator function more realistically. The mid-level simulators include actual instrument panels, steering-system and road-surface feedbacks, dash board and seating. At the upper end is a full motion-base simulator with an interchangeable truck cab/car body.

The airline industry saves millions of dollars and countless lives by using simulators to keep their aircraft operators in top readiness as does the military. The VCRS team's objective is to do the same for operators of commercial and emergency vehicles, with a portable, not too expensive simulator programmed with the correct behaviors and diagnostic and information management tools.