vizHOME Progress Update

Here’s an in depth look at what the vizHOME team has been up to as we head into year three of our five year project!

We completed the first phase of our project – conducting intensive interviews with 20 participants and scanning their homes. Including volunteers, we now have 25 full 3D virtual models of home interiors. We will be releasing these in 2017 for public use. This is a critical part of our study. When finally completed with the project, the results we yield will not just be a large stack of reports, but rather actual 3D models of homes. One of the goals of this research is to assist in the design of the next generation of health management tools that people use in their households. Giving the designers of these tools access to our virtual homes will help them to get a grasp on what the environment for these products is and have a standard against which they can evaluate different designs.

In vizHOME’s second phase, six research team members explored 16 of the houses in the CAVE, “tagging” (virtually marking up) items they thought would help or deter Personal Health Information Management (PHIM) task performance. From this we have developed a list of objects within spaces that will help us to identify the features that most influence PHIM in the home. We will modify and refine this list in the next phase of the project in which we will bring in 30 lay people who have been diagnosed with diabetes and get their opinions on items they think contribute towards PHIM.

Led by Project Assistant, Dustin Brockenberg, we conducted a pilot study comparing the household evaluations in immersive 2D and 3D. The results showed that reducing the dimensionality of a display from 3D to 2D still engages our participants enough to get valid results. This is important because in the CAVE, some people can experience motion sickness, but if that happens we know we can rely on our other technologies to allow participation in our study. With over 80 lay people coming into the CAVE in the next year this is an important backup plan!

According to Kevin Ponto, lead technical expert of the project, our biggest accomplishment, from a technological view, has been successfully creating 3D models of our home interiors. This has included collecting scanned data points of the 25 home interiors and creating immersive 3D models out of them for our CAVE. Achieving this has come with a good amount of challenges to tackle because of the sheer size of data we brought in from each house scan (sometimes hundred of millions of data points for a single home) coupled with the need to have the model render with high quality and a reasonably fast refresh rate. Succeeding in this has allowed our CAVE to give visualizations comparable to actually walking through a home.

Here’s an idea of what a home visualization looks like! Video from Mike De Sisti of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Ponto also states, “Looking ahead, the next big problem for us to tackle will be creating a method to visualize the path that a participant takes through a house, while also seeing exactly what they are looking at.“ If you’re unfamiliar, our experiment involves finding out what objects around the house contribute to a person’s Health Information Management, so being able to accomplish this goal of tracking their path and what they are looking at while in our 3D home will help give us the ability to narrow down exactly what objects they are marking up and finding interesting. This will give us a mode of comparison from participant to participant and will help us to really get a sense of what items in a home are found to be important towards Personal Health Information Management (PHIM).

Staff News

Patti Brennan who has lead the vizHome project as PI Since its beginning has been named Director of the National Library of Medicine (NLM) starting in the fall of 2016 by the National Institute of Health. The NLM is the world’s largest biomedical library and she is very enthusiastic about the position. We are all very proud of her accomplishment, although we are heartbroken at the thought of her leaving.

Patti Brennan (@pattifbrennan) remains the PI. She’s taken the vizHOME message around the world – from France (IEEE-VR) to Sao Paolo,Brazil (MEDINFO 2015) to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (King Faisal Research Center). Gail Casper is the project director and will be attending NI2016 in Geneva. Kevin Ponto leads our technical efforts – he and his team are developing faster graphics management to make the vizHOME display experience more comfortable, as mentioned above. Nicole Werner, a human factors expert, joined our group this summer – she will direct the next two phases of the vizHOME study. Ross Tredinnick and Markus Broecker are polishing the scanning pipeline, making the transfer from point cloud to visualization much faster. Ross also took some time out this summer to welcome his new son, Weston.

We said good-bye to graduating staff: Naveen Subramaniam who now works for Amazon.com and Alex Marvin who is doing consulting in Washington, DC. We are happy to have a super group of new students: undergraduates on the technical side are Peter Procek and Sam Solovy; assisting the project is Cale Geffre, and doctoral student Rosaleena Mohanty is supporting data management. Dustin Brockberg is continuing as the Project Assistant. More information on their work can be found under the Meet the vizHOME Team tab on the right.

 Other Exciting News

Recently, the LEL has used our technology and our home scanning processes in two very interesting and unexpected ways. The first is Crime Scene Investigation; the Dane County Sherriff’s Office connected with the Living Environments Lab to scan the scene of a crime. This was done in order to have a 3D model with all of the details preserved. 3D scans are being accepted in more and more court cases because of their ability to prevent the possibility of crime scene contamination, if scanned early enough. Also, they can be much more effective than diagrams and pictures in presenting the case.              You can read more about it here: http://wid.wisc.edu/featured-science/csi-discovery/

Our virtual reality technology was also featured in a historical preservation project. We produced a 3D Model of the iconic Taliesin home, owned by Frank Lloyd Wright, outside of Spring Green, WI. This allows people all over the world access to the timeless designs. You can read more about it here: http://wid.wisc.edu/wid-culture/virtual-taliesin-a-beautiful-reality/

ross_house_living_room2          ross_house_kitchen


Effective personal health information management (PHIM), including symptom monitoring, medication management and clinical care coordination, facilitates self-care, ensures appropriate use of health services, and improves health outcomes. Computer tools can assist with PHIM, but these solutions are often created with little attention to where they will be used. The visibility of a calendar for reminding one of a weekly blood test or the proximity of a Bluetooth-enabled glucometer to the computer that stores the readings can enable or interfere with PHIM. Designers must understand where PHIM occurs to make optimally effective solutions. Yet bringing designers and engineers into the private, personal spaces and allowing repeated, systematic study of home contexts is not only burdensome to the home dweller, but also infeasible due to the ever-changing nature of homes. The purpose of this project is to systematically determine how household context shapes personal health information management.

Using Venkatesh’s (1996) model of the five environments of health to explicate the environmental context in the SEIPS work system model, we will (1) undertake an extensive study of 20 households addressing the social, physical, psychological, technical and health services context of PHIM, including creating detailed photographic, video, and 3D reconstructions of these households in a virtual reality CAVE; (2) through recursive immersive exploration in the CAVE, enumerate the features of these households that shape PHIM; (3) enlist 20 people self-identified with diabetes in a requirements validation activity in the CAVE; (4) engage 60 people with diabetes in an experimental evaluation of these indicators and (5) use all of these results to develop and evaluate, in a field assessment of 200 households, an Assessment of the Context of Home Environments inventory. The reference set of 20 virtual homes will be distributed through Creative Commons for repeated studies by designers. We will also make available the Assessment of the Context of Home Environments (ACHE) protocol for rapid assessments of the home context. This interdisciplinary project brings together nurses, engineers, computer scientists, and health services researchers to explicate how the home context shapes health information needs and can be used to guide the design of consumer health information management solutions.

As health care migrates from the institution to the home, and engagement of everyone in healthy practices is necessary to avoid disease or mitigate its consequences, systematic understanding of how homes will foster the integration of technologies into the every-day lives of people that ensure that homes not only become spaces for health but tools that draw people towards optimal well-being.

We encourage you to read the VizHome Abstract to learn even more about us.



The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, strives “to produce evidence to make health care safer, higher quality, more accessible, equitable, and affordable,” as explained in their mission statement. AHRQ is a national organization that focuses on improving patient-centered outcomes. Working with clinicians and other healthcare providers, they find solutions to existing problems in healthcare. The vizHOME team received a $2.5 million grant (R01 HS22548-01) for their project from the AHRQ.


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The Survey of the Health of Wisconsin is the first statewide research survey of its kind to measure information on critical health conditions in Wisconsin. Findings from SHOW present a comprehensive picture of the health of Wisconsin residents, helping to identify needs and target resources where they are most needed.

The Survey of the Health of Wisconsin is funded by the Wisconsin Partnership Program and is under the direction of Dr. F. Javier Nieto and his team at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. SHOW identifies potentially eligible individuals to assist us in our recruitment process.