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Watch: Take a look inside Europe's largest virtual reality lab

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At the Elbedome participants are fully immersed in a virtual world
At the Elbedome participants are fully immersed in a virtual world   -   Copyright  AP

At Europe's largest 3D lab, participants are fully immersed in a virtual alternate reality.

The 16-metre diameter Elbedome in Magdeburg, Germany uses 25 laser projectors to show a 360-degree virtual world.

While in VR experiences the virtual world is usually shown on a small screen, someone wearing a headset at the Elbedome can expect the lab to be transformed into a wrap-around alternate reality. The occasional glitch is all that reminds the viewer that what they see is not real.

The projectors show a virtual world in a-360 degree cylinder, with the help of augmented reality glasses and a location detection system.

"You put the glasses on. Here on the top is a marker that is pinpointed by cameras in this room. So when I move the view is adjusted for my position," said Steffen Masik, head of the Fraunhofer Elbedome virtual reality dome.

The dome was built in 2006 but was upgraded extensively at a cost of €2.5 million (with two-thirds of the funding coming from the European Union) and reopened in May, 2018.

But while the dome would be a gamer's paradise, it is (in reality) owned by the Fraunhofer Institute for Factory Operation and Automation IFF and used by businesses to create virtual replicas of workplaces, from factories to oil rigs, for training and planning. There is also major interest from architecture firms, who want to bring their clients into their model buildings.

Masik said: "At the moment we are looking at a virtual reality. We can walk through the virtual world. But, we can also make it a mixed reality where we bring in real objects. This is important for the industrial field. Then I can make an entire virtual factory and then I'll be able to put one physical work station in here."

Masik is confident that this is the largest virtual reality dome of its kind in Europe, perhaps the world. But the development of the dome is continuing — he believes that one day it might be possible to bring in haptic feedback, which simulates the sense of touch, making it possible to feel virtual objects.

He said: "The visual impact is already there, I can walk around and it looks the same as it would in reality. But I can't touch anything. I can't pick things up and feel them. That would be great, but it's really far off in the future."