Expo/Theater/Virtual Environments

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VIRTUAL REALITY: Applications for National Challenges

National Challenge projects supported through NII are aiding the inner cities by helping low-income individuals develop job skills, analyze home mortgage lending data, provide health information, and share community experiences. Other projects reach out to the disabled by finding ways to make the Internet accessible to the visual- and hearing-impaired. Still other projects aim to make government institutions more efficient and accountable, strengthen the country's economic competitiveness, facilitate environmental monitoring and improve the quality of life.

Here are a few examples of National Challenge applications of VR.

Manufacturing and industrial design

Major companies are maintaining their global competitiveness by designing products better and faster with virtual reality. General Motors, for instance, is using a virtual prototype rather than a physical model of one of its new model cars to evaluate the interior design for aesthetics, engineering, safety, and ergonomic features. Caterpillar refined its new backhoe and wheel loaders electronically with virtual reality technology.

Randall C. Smith, General Motors Corp., on-camera
Movie/Sound Byte
QuickTime Movie (4.5 MB); Sound File (2.2 MB); Text

Education, training, and life-long learning

Interactive computing and communications technology are ushering in a new era of education in which students and teachers, separated by a distance, are conducting research and performing experiments through high-speed connections that will eventually incorporate VR. High school students in Chicago are modeling weather patterns with the help of professors 100 miles away at the University of Illinois as part of a test project. Their experiences will doubtless shape curriculums for elementary and college students, business training programs, and continuing education.

Environmental monitoring

For a glimpse of the complex circulation dynamics and ecosystems beneath the sea surface, researchers are simulating estuarine systems of the Chesapeake Bay. In the first phase, they are studying the effects of the Susquehanna, Potomac, and James Rivers on the salinity of the Bay.


To study the circulation of blood simulated a heart by treating the heart wall as a set of fibers immersed in fluid and responding to both fluid forces and tension fo rces. The fluid, in turn, experiences a force field in the neighborhood of the fibers that prevents flow through the gaps in the fiber network, allowing the heart to pump the fluid.

Grand Challenge Applications

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NCSA & EVL. Last modified 9/28/95