Daekun Kim, a third-year software engineering student, has received the 2022 Jessie W.H. Zou Memorial Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Research. Established in 2012, the $1,000 annual award recognizes excellence in research conducted by an undergraduate student in the Faculty of Mathematics. The prestigious award is typically conferred to a student in his or her final year of study, but in extraordinary cases it has been awarded to undergrads in earlier stages of their programs who have been exceptionally innovative and productive researchers.
Daekun is precisely that kind of awardee. His research excellence and productivity are abundantly evident in the studies he has conducted with his advisor, Professor Daniel Vogel, most notably his contributions to a project on virtual reality depth perception and another that extends mouse interactions seamlessly from a computer desktop to the surrounding environment.
Virtual reality depth perception
As virtual reality — or VR for short — has grown in popularity in commercial applications and academic research, guidelines and best practices in VR interaction design are becoming increasingly important. One aspect that makes designing for VR different from many other mediums is user depth perception. Depth perception is significantly more important in designing VR interactions because VR occurs in real three-dimensional spaces.
Raycasting — a laser-pointing technique for interacting with targets — is a popular method of interaction for tasks such as menu selection. While much of the knowledge from previous non-VR work on 2D pointing tasks can be translated to VR, it is unclear how depth perception affects raycast target selection. Design guidelines have recommended that targets be placed one to two metres away from the user, even though there is no empirically validated evidence for that choice.
Daekun investigated whether there is a significant effect of depth perception on raycast selection of planar targets in VR. His research revealed that target depth and depth cues do not affect VR raycast selection performance in all measures, contrasting findings in previous research. His findings demonstrate that the choice of target depths and depth cues can be changed according to design needs without sacrificing the selection performance or workload.
“The VR depth perception project began as an idea proposed by one of my PhD students, but it was Daekun who worked diligently to make it happen and expand its scope,” Professor Vogel said. “He did every aspect of the work, including data analysis and writing the full paper. He plans to submit the research to a top conference in human-computer interaction later this year.”
Spatial augmented reality — or SAR — is a method to render digital content directly on surfaces in real environments, typically by using projection mapping. SAR can cover surfaces and objects with illusionary textures for many applications. But SAR can also be used subtly to augment real surfaces and objects selectively with 2D surface-mapped digital information, essentially turning every surface in a space into a computer display.
Extending the display space of traditional desktop computing and making it pervasive and integrated into the surrounding environment is a compelling use for surface-mapped SAR. The computer mouse is familiar to everyone who has used a desktop computer. Using a mouse to interact with objects and surfaces in a room could enable a natural integration of desktops with the surrounding environment. The goal is to create a mouse technique for SAR that behaves the same as a cursor does on a desktop computer’s screen. Using this technique, you could for example print a document by dragging a file from your computer’s screen to a laser printer on the other side of the room.
Daekun’s technique — which he calls Everywhere Cursor — employs a novel geometry-based cursor movement, which produces a consistent and smooth cursor mapping behaviour from desktop computers. Daekun compared geometry-based movement enabled by this technique with existing SAR mouse techniques and found that it achieves 29% to 60% improvement in precision and accuracy for trajectory-based tasks like tracing.
“Daekun’s exceptional technical skills in 3D graphics methods have been critical, but even more important are his intelligence, diligence and ability to discover novel solutions to open research problems,” Professor Vogel said. “He developed a fully immersive SAR desk centred around a novel method he invented for a mouse-controlled cursor that can literally move anywhere. He took this project all the way to an accepted short paper and poster for the late-breaking work track at the 2022 ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. He then made major refinements to his technical methods, ran a controlled experiment, and wrote a full paper.”
Daekun delivering a talk about this research
About the Jessie W.H. Zou Memorial Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Research
Cheriton School of Computer Science Professor Ming Li and his family established the Jessie W.H. Zou Memorial Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Research in 2012 in honour of his late wife, Jessie Wenhui Zou.
Jessie was born on August 27, 1968 in Wuhan, China. She received her PhD in physics from Wuhan University when she was 26 years old. She loved the field of finance and continued to pursue her studies at the University of Waterloo in the statistical finance master’s program. After graduating in 2000, she worked at the Bank of Montreal, specializing in risk control management.
The Jessie W.H. Zou Memorial Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Research is presented annually to an undergraduate student enrolled in his or her final year of any program within the Faculty of Mathematics. Students must demonstrate excellence in research and be nominated by a faculty member who has supervised their research. The awardee is chosen by the Faculty of Mathematics Research Advisory Committee, chaired by the Associate Dean of Research.