Virtual Dave in the Laboratory

Virtual Dave in the Laboratory

Virtual Dave in the Laboratory was exhibited at Maryland Art Place (MAP) in April 1999, accompanying an exhibition of work by IRC founding director David Yager. This interactive animation allowed up to four users to “probe” a virtual David Yager using a plastic camera, toy medical instruments, and a pair of forceps. Each physical object had a virtual counterpart to which “V-Dave” would react. Inspection of V-Dave’s body would reveal hatches in his torso, legs, and head. Within these hatches were small versions of David Yager’s photographic images which could be removed using the forceps. A participant could extract a picture to examine it and then put it back, or they could let it float away and another would regenerate in its place. Moving the “stethoscope” throughout the scene triggered various sound-effects. For example, near V-Dave’s head, one could hear what he was thinking.

Animation and Visualization

All of the animation and interaction for Virtual Dave in the Laboratory was designed in Softimage 3D using runtime expressions. The Softimage expression syntax has a C-like library of functions and allows complex conditional statements. The positions and orientations of the objects were tracked using a Polhemus UltraTrak motion-capture system. This and additional MIDI data were fed into a Softimage LiveGL scene running on a SGI Onyx R10000 Infinite Reality Engine. Video of the real time 3-D rendered scene, as seen through the virtual camera, was shown on a large projection screen.

Production Notes 1

Event: Maryland Arts Place (MAP)
Interactive Real Time Animators: Alan Price and Tim Best

Virtual Dave

Virtual Dave made his first live appearance at Baltimore’s Convention Center during Greater Baltimore Technology Night. David Yager, Director of the Imaging Research Center and Virtual Dave’s real world counterpart, was featured presenting current research work in animation and visualization produced by UMBC’s Imaging Research Center. While Yager addressed the 1000 representatives from the Maryland business community, his virtual rendition appeared on the 12 foot screen behind the podium, mimicking his gestures.


Virtual Dave was rendered live with a Silicon Graphics workstation and LiveGl by Softimage. A Polhemus motion capture system tracked Yager’s every movement and translates the information to the 3D model in real time. Virtual Dave’s mouth moves in unison with Yager’s speech by utilizing a microphone audio input to drive the position of Virtual Dave’s mouth.

Production Notes 2

Event: Greater Baltimore Technology Night, sponsored by the Greater Baltimore Technology Council
Real World Counterpart: David Yager, Founding Director, Imaging Research Center
Interactive Real Time Animators: Alan Price and Tim Besty