“a multimodal system to explore virtual reality”


The OMERO system enables three-dimensional representations and multimodal (visual, haptic, auditory) explorations of complex virtual environments. It is intended to fully exploit the power and flexibility of virtual models to enhance the communication of information to the final users, accounting for their sensory preferences and/or limitations/impairments. It has been widely tested to help visually impaired people to fill the gap between sensorial experiences of the world (by touch and hearing) and comprehension and knowledge development.



CyberForce (Immersion) is a device with 6 DOF that can apply forces up to 8.8 N Its workspace is 0.3 m x 0.3 m (translation) and 133 degrees (rotation) with a radius of 0.5 m. It has a nominal resolution of 0.06 mm max and an angular resolution of 0.09 degrees.



Phantom Desktop is a pen-like device that provides the same sensations that the user would receive if he/she were touching a real object with the tip of a pencil.


Touching complex objects

Materic texture can make difficult the haptic exploration: virtual models can dynamically enable/disable the rendering of such features to simplify the acquisition of dimension and shape.


Planimetry of historical and cultural sites

Virtual models can be dynamically scaled to enable the exploration of details that would be too small for the fingertips of the user if reproduced by a tactile map.


Different views of complex environments

Parts of a complex environment can be enlarged. Different views can be created adding the representations of relevant, semantically related, objects.


Full 3D exploration

Complex environments can be rendered in their full 3D structure. Auxiliary forces can be applied by the system to guide the user’s hand along meaningful and complete exploration paths.




   STARTING DATE – 1.5.2003
   ENDING DATE – 30.6.2006

TOTAL COST €: 583.725,00
TOTAL FUNDING € 466.980,00

COST € 583.725,00
FUNDING € 466.980,00


Virtual models can represent only a part of their real counterparts. This apparent limitation can be turned into strength: a wise and proper choice of what is modeled can help the final user to focus only on the information that the publisher wants to convey.

In the OMERO system different views of the same reality can be offered, representing different semantic information. The user can dynamically select what is rendered at any moment, combining views or exploring them separately. The same VRML model can be rendered at different scale according to the needs of final users.

The OMERO system offers three interaction modalities: visual, haptic and auditory. The models are carefully designed and structured to render the contents of interest in a polymorphous and redundant way. So the user can choose the sensorial modalities more suited for his/her characteristics, even accounting for limitations and/or impairments.

The OMERO system has been used to enable visually impaired people to interact with virtual models representig cultural heritage objects and sites, territories, planimetry of buildings, abstract concepts (for example in geometry), … The virtual models have been designed to help the serial touch sense to lead to an integrated mental schema of complex realities (objects rich of details, large buildings, … ). The different semantic layers of virtual models conveys logically different views that can be explored separately to prevent users from being overwhelmed by too much simultaneous details: virtual models offer this feature in a cheaper and more flexible way with respect to the generally used physical artifacts. The change of scale of virtual models mimics for fingertips what lenses offer to eyes. OMERO can also apply forces on the user hand to guide the exploration along meaningful paths.

A presentation of the OMERO system

The video provides an overview of the OMERO system and describes the underlying ideas, the available functionalities and the already successfully verified applications to help visually impaired people.

Exploring the Apulia region using OMERO

The video shows the virtual exploration of the territory of the Apulia region using the OMERO system. The virtual representation of the region has been carefully designed to help visually impaired people to acquired the available information in a progressive and ordered way.

Exploring the Swabian Castle in Bari using OMERO

The video show the exploration of the Swabian castle in Bari using the OMERO system. The virtual visit allow visually impaired people to acquire a mental model of complex site that is useful to organize a real visit and to usefully collect new details during a real visit.

The system can be used in a wide range of applications: to enable the access to data available on the net that cannot be described by synthetized text (images, 3D models, … ), to provide cultural and touristic information about a region, to support didactical applications (mathematics, biology, geography, history, art, … ) wherever concepts can be represented by three-dimensional models are just few examples of its versatility.






Unione Italiana Ciechi
Consiglio Regionale Pugliese
Direzione Regionale per i Beni Culturali e Paesagistici della Puglia