Virtual Environments and Computer Graphics
Virtual reality is a simulation or illusion that allows a person to experience being in a situation other than where they presently are. These illusions are created for entertainment, or in other fields, because some scenarios are either too complex or too difficult to simulate in the real world. At Vanderbilt, research in virtual reality examines how these simulations can be improved, particularly with respect to the spatial aspects of the environments that the user sees.
Associate Professor of Computer Science, Computer Engineering and Electrical Engineering
Robert Bodenheimer's primary research in the area of virtual environments aims to promote positive experiences by developing and improving such environments. Specifically, he investigates higher level design issues in order to build systems that allow learning in meaningful contexts and situations. His current work examines how people learn and perceive affordances (possibilities for action) in virtual environments, and how virtual environments can be made to better match real-world affordances. He is particularly interested in this question as it pertains to the advent of commodity level virtual environment technology such as the Microsoft Kinect, Oculus Rift and Playstation Move. Bodenheimer's research on computer animation has also contributed to improving learning systems. This work investigates methods to create visually appealing human motion. In one such project, he developed a way to generate new animation from existing cartoons. This model-free method has applications in learning environments for children, in which non-human characters may serve as more effective teaching agents.
Bodenheimer has also worked on several collaborative research projects on topics that include computational photography, learning and generation of robotic behaviors and visualization of computational models of cognition. He is a founder and director of the scientific computing minor at Vanderbilt.