Module Guide & Assessment

About this course

This course is an introduction to 'desktop virtual reality'. By this we mean something quite specific: the creation and display, on the screen of a desktop or laptop computer, of illusions of 3-dimensional objects that may be animated, and of 3-dimensional scenes that may be navigated, in response to manipulation of an input device (e.g. mouse or keyboard) by the computer user. Other forms of 'virtual reality', 'augmented reality', '3D-modeling', as well as 3D computer games and console games, cab simulators and immersive VR, will be referenced in the course, but will not be the focus of the course.

The course will focus on the applications and uses of desktop VR rather than on the authoring and rendering technologies per se. The course will be critically addressing questions such as "What is VR being used for? why use VR at all? what is the added value of using desktop VR within broader non-VR contexts?" You will be expected, however, to acquire and demonstrate some basic competence in the use of at least one of the authoring tools to which you will be introduced in the course.

We'll be looking at desktop VR from three orthogonal perspectives: [i] application areas (virtual history, telecollaboration, retailing, etc), [ii] technologies and technical design skills (3D modelling, photographic VR, etc), and [iii] theoretical issues (human factors).

Course structure

The course is structured into 'blocks', as follows:

  1. Introduction to desktop VR; the 3D desktop
  2. A review of applications and application areas for desktop VR
  3. 3D data visualisation
  4. Panoramic (photographic) desktop VR (using Hugin)
  5. 3D GIS and terrain visualisation (using Terragen)
  6. 3D modelling (using Blender)
  7. Web 3D (using X3D)
  8. Inhabited 3D worlds (focussing on SecondLife, There, and ActiveWorlds)
  9. Frontiers

A note on software

Whenever and wherever possible, I shall be recommending—and we shall be using in workshops—open source software. There are at least the following four reasons for doing so:

  • using open source, together with occasional downloads of trial versions of commercial software, gives you the opportunity to try out a range of different packages for accomplishing the same tasks, thereby allowing you to learn general underlying principles of VR design and production rather than simply the superficial features of specific GUIs.
  • the quality of the most well-known open source applications (Blender, Hugin, AoI, etc) is outstanding, with functionality and performance that are more than a match for most commercial packages.
  • open source software very often allows you a more 'hands-on' approach to VR creation (e.g. the optional manual insertion of control points in Hugin) than does commercial software (especially commercial software at the 'hobbyist' end of the market), and therefore you are more likely to learn something of the underlying principles and techniques of construction that you will using only commercial software.
  • open source software is almost invariably free. This means that you are not constrained to working solely within the Sopwith labs. You can download and install your own copies, and work as easily at home as you do in the university.
  • open source software is less likely to be platform-specific than commercial software, so you'll always be able to use it irrespective of whether your personal computer is running Windows, Mac, or Linux.
Module guide, 2007 [MS Word]
Assessment briefing 2007 [MS Word]
Assignment 2 : Proposal template [MS Word]
Assignment 2 : Guidelines [MS Word]
Assignment 2 cover sheet [MS Word]
Assignment 2 : Evaluation Plan Template [MS Word]
Assignment 1 Marksheet (for information only)
[You may use this sheet as a template for your first assignment]