The VENLab is a research facility designed to investigate human visual control of locomotion and the nature of cognitive maps during navigation. Virtual environments are presented to human participants via a head-mounted display, and their positions are recorded using an inside-out tracking system. The VENLab was founded by William Warren, Michael Tarr, and Leslie Pack Kaelbling via a National Science Foundation Award (Learning and Intelligent Systems). The VENLab is currently supported by grants from both the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health (National Eye Institute). The research conducted in the VENLab falls under two large projects: (1) the visual control of locomotion, and (2) the nature of cognitive maps during navigation. Each project hosts a number of studies conducted by the researchers in the lab. The VENLab itself is a 12m x 13m space (Room 220) designed for ambulatory virtual reality studies. Participants in VENLab studies wear a stereoscopic head-mounted display (Samsung Odyssey) that presents environments generated on a gaming-level computer (Cyberman, MSI VR ONE backpack computer). Position data are analyzed in MATLAB, which also runs simulations of said data. Development of stimuli and experimental scripts are performed on additional computers located in the control room (Room 215), a communal work and meeting space adjacent to the VENLab. A third room (213) houses spare equipment and tools. All studies conducted in the VENLab are approved by the Brown Institutional Review Board (IRB). Experimenters in the VENLab hold frequent training sessions for the research assistants in order to make sure that all personnel are up to current lab protocol and standards. The VENLab is often a favorite tour spot for prospective students, job candidates, and visiting scholars in the Department of Cognitive and Psychological Sciences.
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