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I n t ro d u c i n g t h e Te c h n o l o g y
Selecting a 3D specification
When making the choice about which VR/3D specification to employ the following
questions are worthy of consideration:
- Is the technology platform-independent? Is this necessary/desirable?
- Does it render identically across different platforms? Is this necessary/desirable?
- Does the technology support integrated multimedia?
- How easy is it to program, and will existing staff be capable of this?
- How high are the development costs?
- Is the technology Web-friendly?
- Does the technology require dedicated software for display?
- What are the hardware requirements?
- What is the state of standardisation?
- Does the technology have a recognised/recognisable file format?
- Are the worlds immersive and fully navigable? Is this necessary/desirable?
- How high performance must the finished product be?
Distribution issues
Before the advent of the Internet,VR worlds were all held discretely and accessible
only by those physically close to the host computer. Now more than ever virtual envi-
ronment design must also address issues of distribution. Decisions about CGI, Servlets
and two-tier versus three-tier architecture will be dependent on the intended user base,
such as whether the model should be accessible over the Web or, for example, in a stand-
alone cabinet in a museum.Will it be desirable or necessary for the world to be capable
of hosting concurrent visitors?
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These are crucial design issues, and will impact on the
technical as well as the aesthetic or pedagogical successes and/or failures of the virtual
venture.
Interfacing issues
Most VR systems and certainly the overwhelming majority in Web-distributed VR
applications are navigated using the standard PC mouse. A mouse is only capable of
motion in two dimensions how then can this be reconciled with the illusion of a
three-dimensional world? Dedicated controllers may be employed, perhaps featuring
some simple haptic force feedback for the user.
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Interface design is a key issue, and vari-
ous intuitive interfaces should ideally be available for different types of user from children
to specialists.
Virtual Reality and
Display Technologies
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Blaxxun provide a free plugin which allows concurrent multi-user 3D rendering.
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Haptic devices, which replicate the sensation of `touching' virtual objects, may also be used to experience
virtual worlds. Haptics will be covered in detail in DigiCULT Technology Watch Report 3, available from
August 2004.