CAPTIVE: a 3D printed 6DoF controller that can manipulate virtual 3D objects 2x faster than competing tech

Researchers at North Carolina State University have developed a user-friendly 3D printed 6DoF controller called CAPTIVE that can be used to manipulate virtual 3D objects in a computer program. The device allows users to manipulate objects with less lag time than existing technology.
Whether you’re a video gamer or a medical professional, manipulating virtual objects in 3D can be incredibly useful. Less so, however, if the tool you’re using gives lag, producing latency between movement of the device and movement seen on-screen.

That’s why researchers at North Carolina State University have developed CAPTIVE, a 3D printed controller for manipulating virtual 3D objects.

The device, which offers six degrees of freedom, can be used in many computing applications, and consists of just three components: a solid cube shape, the webcam already found on most smartphones and laptops, and custom software.

The plastic 3D printed controller might resemble a toy, with its color-coded balls on each corner and simple scaffold shape, but it’s actually got a lot of clever technology inside it that helps to reduce that dreaded lag.

When users move the cube around, an image is captured by the webcam. Video recognition software then tracks the movement of the cube in three dimensions by noting how each of the colored balls moves in relation to the others.

“The primary advantage of CAPTIVE is that it is efficient,” said Zeyuan Chen, lead author of a paper that explains CAPTIVE, and a Ph.D. student in NC State’s Department of Computer Science. “There are a number of tools on the market that can be used to manipulate 3D virtual objects, but CAPTIVE allows users to perform these tasks much more quickly.”

That efficiency Chen talks about has even been scientifically proven. Researchers carried out a number of standard experiments on the 3D printed device in order to determine how quickly users can complete a series of tasks on it.
They found that CAPTIVE allowed users to rotate objects in three dimensions almost twice as fast as they could with competing technologies.

“Basically, there’s no latency; no detectable lag time between what the user is doing and what they see on screen,” Chen said.

The 3D printed controller is also cheap, the NC State researchers say, since it contains “no electronic components…that aren’t already on your smartphone, tablet, or laptop.” The 3D printed parts don’t cost much to fabricate, and that leaves only the cost of CAPTIVE’s dedicated software.

“Performance Characteristics of a Camera-Based Tangible Input Device for Manipulation of 3D Information,” the research paper documenting the creation of CAPTIVE, will be presented at the forthcoming Graphics Interface conference, which is being held in Edmonton, Alberta, May 16-19.

The paper was co-authored by Christopher Healey, a professor of computer science at NC State, and Robert St. Amant, an associate professor of computer science at NC State.


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