Lifestyle: Virtual reality gives Japan drivers tsunami scenario

(From Asahi Shimbun)

By Yoshinobu Matsunaga

GAMAGORI, Aichi Prefecture–With the dark waters of a tsunami rapidly menacing, the “driver” punches the gas pedal to get away, but the rising deluge causes the engine to conk out. The hapless driver is trapped and can only listen to the sound of the onrushing water as it envelops the car. In just three minutes, the vehicle starts to sink into the cold inky depths.

The simulation ends.

An image on a head-mounted display shows how a car is quickly swallowed up.

An image on a head-mounted display shows how a car is quickly swallowed up. Asahi Shimbun image.

It’s all part of a virtual reality program developed at the Aichi University of Technology that gives people a hands-on experience of the dangers of being caught in a tsunami while behind the wheel of a car.

“The 3-D images allow the user to experience and easily understand what occurs when one tries to flee by car,” said Tomoki Itamiya, an associate professor of image processing at the university. “That will help those users understand that they should abandon their cars immediately and flee.”

Itamiya came up with the idea of developing the program after the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami. Students in Itamiya’s laboratory used computers to analyze video footage taken during the 2011 tsunami by car-mounted cameras. They also interviewed disaster victims to more accurately depict a tsunami with video images.

The movements of the waves and car were programmed into a computer to create video images in combination with 3-D model data of four locations produced by Zenrin Co., a major mapping firm. Read more

Categories: Japan, Lifestyle

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