With the boom of digital interactions, especially with the appearance of the concept of "metaverse," the demand for experiences that closely mimic reality has increased. This has led to the continuous development of numerous immersive technologies, such as virtual reality headsets, haptic devices, and realistic visualizations, paving the way for futuristic digital interactions resembling science fiction.
Aiming to build the future of these desired hyper-realistic interactions in XR-based environments with an ethical approach, the PRESENCE - Horizon project was born. Funded by the European Commission under the Horizon Europe funding program, this project brings together 17 European partners, including research centers, universities, and technology companies.
Over the three-year duration of the project, its partners intend to offer not only hyper-realistic intuitive interactions between humans but also human-machine interactions. How do they plan to achieve these two approaches? Here's how.
Benefiting from the members' expertise, the goal is to create realistic avatars or digitized humans in artificial environments. To achieve these virtual human-to-human interactions, the researchers will develop a photorealistic multi-user holoportation system for multiple users in real-time communication scenarios.
Another goal of the project is to make virtual experiences more immersive by adding tactile sensations, such as texture or movement, through new haptic technologies. In addition, they will work on developing realistic 3D models of AI-powered intelligent individuals and virtual agents that can speak, show emotions, and behave naturally in virtual environments, making human-machine interactions more realistic.
The technologies being developed at PRESENCE will be tested in practical situations, focusing on XR applications for both professional and social environments. There are four main areas: professional collaboration, manufacturing, healthcare, and cultural heritage.
In professional collaboration, workers will meet virtually using holoportation or avatars. These immersive meeting rooms will feature interactive tools for collaboration. Haptic technologies will enhance remote collaboration, offering life-like tactile sensations.
In manufacturing, XR training scenarios will simulate challenging situations with heavy machinery to improve safety performance. Tactile technologies will reproduce crucial maneuvers, and instructors will appear as photorealistic holograms, with other participants represented as 3D avatars.
In healthcare, physical therapists will use XR to remotely assist patients. Patients will interact with physical therapists through holographic projections or 3D avatars, and haptic gloves will enable more precise exercises.
In cultural heritage, users will experience remote locations realistically. Tourists and guides can explore cultural landmarks together virtually, with users represented as holograms or lifelike 3D avatars interacting with tour guides in real-time holographic projections.
Actronika, a startup specializing in high-definition haptic technology and a contributor to previous European projects like Intuitive and MuseIT, is one of the members who will bring PRESENCE to life.
One of the key elements to achieving the goal of enhancing realism in social interactions in the digital realm is stimulating the sense of touch, in other words, haptic technology.
To achieve this goal, Actronika will focus on designing and developing real-life-like tactile sensations related to each interaction. This will involve creating software capable of reproducing different tactile sensations across various devices available in the market, such as the Skinetic vest. In this way, the specific limitations of each device will be overcome, achieving standardization in tactile experience.
As the PRESENCE project unfolds, we envision a future in which digital interactions will reflect reality in unprecedented ways. Think about the possibilities and how these advances could reshape our lives, blurring the boundaries between the tangible and the virtual. Stay tuned as we move forward with this revolutionary project.