Gilbert’s grad student wins best poster presentation award

Adel Sulaiman, a PhD student in computer science, poses in front of his poster during the Graduate and Professional Student Research Conference in the Memorial Union on April 11, 2018. Photo courtesy of Adel Sulaiman

A graduate student advised by IMSE assistant professor Stephen Gilbert recently won the award for best poster presentation at an Iowa State research conference.

Adel Sulaiman, a PhD student in computer science, was named the best poster presenter by the Graduate and Professional Student Senate at the 5th annual Graduate and Professional Student Research Conference last week in the Memorial Union. Sulaiman is part of the Human Computer Interaction graduate program within Iowa State’s Virtual Reality Applications Center (VRAC).

“It is a great feeling having won this award, especially when competing with great minds of graduate students from ISU. As an international student, it was an exciting moment to share with my family and friends back home,” said Sulaiman who is from Saudi Arabia. “This award gave me a strong motivation to continue my research and to contribute to our department and field.”

Sulaiman’s research is under the supervision of Gilbert, who also serves as a researcher for VRAC, as well as Les Miller, a professor of computer science and researcher in VRAC. The research aims to build a virtual environment simulation of a neighborhood in Ames.

“We tried to include as many details as possible to increase the simulation fidelity such as homes, trees, street signs, sidewalks, driveways, cars, and sounds,” said Sulaiman. “The simulation is running in a unique highly immersive virtual environment called The C6 lab located in VRAC.”

Adel Sulaiman poses in front of a virtual reality model of an Ames neighborhood rendered on a green screen inside the C6 lab inside the Virtual Reality Applications Center. Photo courtesy of Adel Sulaiman 

By wearing a pair of 3D glasses, users can navigate a one and a half square mile virtual replica of an Ames neighborhood. The team also developed a mobile map application which includes a simulated GPS signal to help guide while navigating the 3D model.

“The goal of this project is to investigate the use of virtual reality – or VR – for training on location-based applications and tasks such as address verification,” said Sulaiman. “Studying the usability of the mobile application and the virtual environment is another aspect of this project. We focus also on the impact of individual differences, spatial ability in particular, on training and usability of the mobile application and the virtual environment.”

Virtual and augmented reality research such as this can have various applications from education and training to entertainment and gaming. This research can benefit industry by providing an example of training for location-based mobile applications in the virtual environment. Spatial knowledge transfer from the virtual to the real environment can help when working in a complex or dangerous environment. Government agencies, city planners, civil engineers, police, and firefighters are just a few examples of professions that might benefit from the use of this VR.

“For the average person, our work is providing an example to explore virtual and mixed reality technologies on a large scale. Our study will help you to answer with practice the question of how we think when moving from one location to another as well as it will give a chance to test your ability to navigate using landmarks and building strategies,” Sulaiman said.

Gilbert said he has enjoyed the opportunity he’s had to work with Sulaiman as well as other researchers outside of IMSE on this project .

“It has been exciting to work with faculty colleague Les Miller in computer science and with Adel as Adel extends an ongoing study on whether virtual reality environments will give people as good a mental map as walking through a real environment,” said Gilbert. “Do you think you can find your way around a neighborhood better if you’ve explored it virtually first? Also, does it depend on your spatial ability? People differ somewhat in ability to build mental maps–could a well-designed virtual environment level the playing field for people with lower spatial skills? Adel is exploring all of these questions for his PhD.”

Sulaiman will compete his PhD in May 2019. He thanked Gilbert and Miller for their guidance throughout his adventure at Iowa State and said he was grateful for the many opportunities during his time in Ames.

“I think participating in such an event is an excellent opportunity to share and exchange knowledge and expertise with other fellow faculty and students in ISU. As a lecturer in Najran University in Saudi Arabia my work at ISU will provide me great experiences and opportunities to share with my students and fellow faculty as a future academic.”