Revival of the Virtual Lathe

At the SIGGRAPH '92 conference in Chicago, IL, Michael Deering from Sun Microsystems presented the "Virtual Lathe", a screen-based virtual reality experiment that used a head-tracked stereo display system and a 3D mouse in the shape of a rod. By touching the virtual stock with the tip of the physical rod, virtual material was cut away accompanied by virtual sparks and grinding sound. The experiment is described in:

Michael Deering: "High Resolution Virtual Reality," Proceedings SIGGRAPH '92, Computer Graphics, Vol. 26, No. 2 (July 1992), pp. 195-202.

The original virtual lathe:
(courtesy of Sun Microsystems)

The virtual lathe received much attention at SIGGRAPH '92. Although it is already part of VR history, the Virtual Reality Laboratory (VRL) at the University of Michigan revived this intriguing experiment. Bert Schoenwaelder and Lars Schumann, two participants in the International Internship Program at the VRL, saw the SIGGRAPH '92 video and recognized immediately that the idea of a virtual lathe can nowadays be implemented easily via VRML, the Virtual Reality Modeling Language on the WWW. The scripting capability of VRML 2.0 provides the tools for the definition of interactions and resulting shape modifications.

The virtual lathe in VRML:

Web size (9K)
Screen size (38K)

Web size (12K)
Screen size (50K)

Web size (13K)
Screen size (50K)

Load the VRML 2.0 model of our virtual lathe (12K + 7K Sound) and operate the lathe by moving the cutting tool into the stock.
(Try the lathe without sound if your browser is not fully compatible)

An extended version of the virtual lathe was developed that allows to export the VRML code of the workpiece created. With this extension, the virtual lathe can be used as a VRML modeling tool for complex, cylindrical shapes.
Load the VRML 2.0 model of the extended virtual lathe (14K + 7K Sound). When finished with your modeling, click the export icon at the lower right and choose "Save As ..." in the window showing the VRML code. Make sure to save it as "Text" to get the right header. Alternatively, copy & paste the code into your favourite editor.
(Export seems to work only on some browsers)

Web size (12K)
Screen size (50K)

The VRML model was developed with a text editor (Emacs) and was tested on an SGI workstation using CosmoPlayer, a VRML 2.0 plugin to the Netscape browser. Some modifications were necessary to make it work on NT machines.

The stock is modeled as an Extrusion node (a VRML modeling primitive). As the user moves the cutting tool, the tip is being tracked and the shape of the Extrusion node is modified when intersection occurs.

Last update: December 20, 2002, kpb
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