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Explorations in Science and Technology

ULab Creates Robots & Virtual Reality


Pitt researchers are using robotics and virtual reality in projects ranging from helping the military control unmanned aerial vehicles to creating simulations of ancient temples.

Directed by Michael Lewis and part of Pitt’s School of Information Sciences, Pitt’s Usability Lab (ULab) is dedicated to enabling human communication with computers. Their research also includes modeling group decision-making and developing novel ways to visualize information.

Along with professor Jijun Wang, Lewis developed a team of robots for the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Meanwhile, doctoral student Huadong Wang is developing automated systems to allow human teams to control robots for use in urban search and rescue missions after natural disasters.

In addition to its robotics research, ULab combined the graphics engine that powers popular videogames like Unreal Tournament with multi-screen enclosures to create immersive, projection-based virtual reality. These installations have been used to simulate environments including the Temple of Isis in Pompeii and the Temple of Horus in Egypt.