Seamless innovation: A tale of tiles

Imagine using virtual reality to browse around a replica of a local LCBO store, complete with the scent of fresh raspberries and lighting reminiscent of summer dusk?

A simple floor tile has lead to an innovative collaboration between the Faculty of Mathematics and Science’s Machine Shop and the Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI), helping to create experiences just like the one described.

Nestled in the Rankin Family Pavilion, construction of the new CCOVI Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and Sensory Reality Consumer Laboratory is underway. Outside the lab, behind a large two-way mirror, consumer scientists will study the factors that influence a person to purchase one wine over another.

The lab studies consumer behaviour and buying habits using innovative techniques, including virtual reality headgear and fully controlling the lighting, soundscape and scents in the environment. The end goal is total immersion; however, CCOVI has an immersive challenge.

The required floor panels that house power sockets have the potential to catch on shopper’s shoes, breaking the seamless mock-shopping experience. They turned to the shop to create a slip-free experience that wouldn’t break the magic of immersion.

The shop, which has provided support for research in the Faculty of Mathematics and Science and beyond since 1966, often faces unique challenges while working with other departments and centres across campus.

These cross-department collaborations are commonplace for the shop staff, who work behind the scenes to design and support innovation and solve challenges.

“I’m enthusiastic about our Machine Shop collaborations as they are able to solve complex issues that enhance research projects all across Brock,” said Dean Ejaz Ahmed of the Faculty of Mathematics and Science.

In order to make accessing the panels possible, the shop crafted custom magnetic floor tiles that blend with the labs flooring paired with handy magnetic tile lifters.

The floor tile design starts with raw plastic flooring squares machined into shape. Then, a steel strip slots in place and wood paneling is applied. Finally, a separate acrylic disc of similar size is fitted with magnets and a handle, allowing the flooring to insert and remove with ease. The result is both effective and tasteful.

Collaborations such as these are happening campus-wide between departments, creating a web of support and innovation that make Brock agile in its problem solving.

The CCOVI lab and the Machine Shop’s attention to detail is a driving force behind making a believable VR experience.

It may sound like mind-control, but the next time a consumer buys a bottle of wine, the purchasing factors studied at Brock may have directly influenced their wine selection.

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