An investigation into web-based panoramic video virtual reality with reference to the virtual zoo.




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De Montfort University


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Peer reviewed


Panoramic image Virtual Reality (VR) is a 360 degree image which has been interpreted as a kind of VR that allows users to navigate, view, hear and have remote access to a virtual environment. Panoramic Video VR builds on this, where filming is done in the real world to create a highly dynamic and immersive environment. This is proving to be a very attractive technology and has introduced many possible applications but still present a number of challenges, considered in this research.

An initial literature survey identified limitations in panoramic video to date: these were the technology (e.g. filming and stitching) and the design of effective navigation methods. In particular, there is a tendency for users to become disoriented during way-finding. In addition, an effective interface design to embed contextual information is required.

The research identified the need to have a controllable test environment in order to evaluate the production of the video and the optimal way of presenting and navigating within the scene. Computer Graphics (CG) simulation scenes were developed to establish a method of capturing, editing and stitching the video under controlled conditions. In addition, a novel navigation method, named the “image channel” was proposed and integrated within this environment. This replaced hotspots: the traditional navigational jumps between locations. Initial user testing indicated that the production was appropriate and did significantly improve user perception of position and orientation over jump-based navigation. The interface design combined with the environment view alone was sufficient for users to understand their location without the need to augment the view with an on screen map.

After obtaining optimal methods in building and improving the technology, the research looked for a natural, complex, and dynamic real environment for testing. The web-based virtual zoo (World Association of Zoos and Aquariums) was selected as an ideal production: It had the purpose to allow people to get close to animals in their natural habitat and created particular interest to develop a system for knowledge delivery, raising protection concerns, and entertaining visitors: all key roles of a zoo.

The design method established from CG was then used to develop a film rig and production unit for filming a real animal habitat: the Formosan rock monkey in Taiwan. A web-based panoramic video of this was built and tested though user experience testing and expert interviews. The results of this were essentially identical to the testing done in the prototype environment, and validated the production. Also was successfully attracting users to the site repeatedly.

The research has contributed to new knowledge in improvement to the production process, improvement to presentation and navigating within panoramic videos through the proposed Image Channel method, and has demonstrated that web-based virtual zoo can be improved to help address considerable pressure on animal extinction and animal habitat degradation that affect humans by using this technology. Further studies were addressed. The research was sponsored by Taiwan’s Government and Twycross Zoo UK was a collaborator.



panoramic video, panorama, virtual zoo, virtual reality



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