In order to do this with maximum success, a VRML model of the museum was sug-
gested, which would allow the curators and architects to reach a consensus on the opti-
mal deployment of resources while at the same time giving an accurate indication of the
pathways and lines-of-sight that different types of visitor (adults, young children, wheel-
chair users) will be presented with.This is accomplished through the intelligent use of
avatars during the design stage, as well as collaboration with patron groups such as the
Friends of the Museum.
An external expert is commissioned to construct a minimal model, suitable for use in
guided `fly-throughs' but not initially fully explorable.This allows the planning team to
gain a quick overview of the options available to them.While the planners consider the
next move, the VR expert extends the model to become fully interactive and navigable,
and links it to a database of the museum's most valuable and best loved objects.The digi-
tal objects can then be virtually placed in a variety of locations within the model, thus
adding further value, variety and reusability to it.
Finally a selection of avatars is created to represent different categories of users, and
with these the different potential layouts can be explored to ensure that they are attrac-
tive and negotiable for all user groups.
If properly planned and if funding permits the
virtual museum model may eventually be optimised for delivery via the Web, and per-
haps tied in with a number of QTVR panoramas and object movies to add a sense of
realism to the explorable capabilities of VRML.
Scenario II An observatory
Halley's Comet is on its way back towards Earth again, and a university-run observa-
tory hopes to cash in on this rare event by opening its doors to the public, allowing
them to view the spectacle through their powerful telescopes.The staff have two years
before the comet is visible, and want to begin publicising the event as soon as possible.
The first step is to add a special `comet-watch' counter to their Website, coupled with
a little information about the observatory, the comet, and its place in history at the Battle
of Hastings as recorded on the Bayeux Tapestry. In collaboration with the university's
departments of Medieval History, Computing Science and History of Art, the Astronomy
department begins to create a series of Web-delivered QuickTime movies which allow
the user to follow the comet's path around the galaxy from a variety of angles and view-
points.They let them track where the comet was on the date of the user's birth or any
other date of significance to the user.
As the astronomy department holds a large collection of images of the comet, and is
able to track its position continuously, the creation of explorable QTVR panoramas and
non-interactive movies should not prove too onerous a task.The necessary equipment is
already in the possession of the various departments, and the technical and historical
know-how is already in place.The most difficult aspect of such a project is likely to be
the collaboration between radically different departments, although the success of such an
interdisciplinary venture will surely pave the way for future inter-departmental co-opera-
tion on a similar or even a larger scale.
Virtual Reality and
Since the building is so old, wheelchair access is a concern for the planners.