Graduate Student Niall Williams Awarded Honorable Mention, Best Paper at 2022 IEEE VR

Niall Williams, co-advised by Distinguished University Professor Dinesh Manocha & Affiliate Assistant Research Professor Aniket Bera, is one of only 4 graduate students to receive the Honorable Mention, Best Paper award at the 2022 IEEE VR conference.
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Williams, a University of Maryland third year doctoral student in the Department of Computer Science, was recently recognized with an Honorable Mention, Best Paper award at the prestigious 2022 IEEE VR conference for his cutting edge work on developing a novel metric to analyze the similarity between  physical and virtual environments for natural walking in virtual reality. 

The IEEE Conference on Virtual Reality is a globally renowned top conference for presenting and publishing breakthrough innovative research work in the broad areas of virtual, augmented, and mixed reality (VR/AR/XR).

The awarded research work titled “ENI: Quantifying Environment Compatibility for Natural Walking in Virtual Reality,” by Williams, Bera and Manocha, focuses on addressing the problem of understanding the influence of environment layouts on the VR locomotion experience based on natural walking and to accurately quantify to what degree the layouts of given physical and virtual environments influence a user’s ability to avoid collisions during locomotion.

“A key issue with respect to locomotion interfaces that use natural walking is to determine whether a particular pair of physical and virtual environments is amenable to collision-free locomotion,” said Williams. “This award will bring more attention to our research work and possibly improved solutions,” he said.

A UMD GAMMA lab member, Williams’ research is centered on developing robust methods to enable exploration of large virtual environments using natural walking in VR. He utilizes techniques from visual perception, robot motion planning, computational geometry, and statistical modeling to develop rigorous algorithms for steering users through unseen physical environments.

“This is Williams' third best paper award in the last 13 months in the very best conferences on VR and AR,” says Paul Chrisman Iribe Professor Dinesh Manocha. “His work on locomotion interfaces is getting well recognized in the community.”

Williams plans to integrate the metric into an algorithm that will enable users to avoid collisions with unseen physical objects in real time, creating a more comfortable navigation experience. 

Learn more about Williams’ research work here.

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