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COMPUTER GRAPHICS: Current & Future State of VR
The Current State

The development of the CAVE in 1992 began what was a decade of heightened expectations about the promise of Virtual Reality (VR). The nineties saw the development of the Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML) and the proliferation of CAVE-like systems throughout the world (there are were 100 such systems at last count). As the hype surrounding VR died down, researchers realized that their dreams of achieving true VR may be holding back the potential of real time simulation. The efforts of these researchers had created systems that cost millions of dollars and were replete with delicate adjustments requiring expert technical knowledge to operate. Yet, unfortunately, their achievements did not bring visualization technology closer to ordinary people. Over the last several years, the focus has moved away from monolithic CAVE systems to inexpensive systems running on commodity computers. This trend has brought visualization technology closer to groups such as artists, scientists, and designers.

At the same time, the software used to run these systems has been moving from the rarified arena of research labs onto the desktops of ordinary people. Although many have called VRML a disappointment, it was most certainly an idea ahead of its time. Along with tools like the Ygdrasil scripting language developed here at UIC, non-technical users are increasingly using tools that allow them to focus on the results of their visualization needs instead of the details of computer graphics. This trend can be seen in the students earning Electronic Visualization MFA degrees from the Art and Architecture school. Only a few years ago these students had to learn the arcane details of computer graphics in order to create VR, whereas today, many of these students are producing artworks in VR without a single computer graphics class.

The Future State

Just like the average computer literate person can use a spreadsheet or word processing program, over time, people will increasingly gain familiarity with visualization tools. It is almost certain that the future will see a ubiquitous program such as Excel or Word for the development of real-time interactive 3D content. Those in the VR community have realized that immersing a user in a static virtual world is not enough. Video games, with their lower graphic fidelity, but superior interactive qualities, have offered insight into what was is really needed, advanced tools for creating interaction whether it be animating humans and objects, creating user interfaces, or developing interactive storylines. Today, tools such as Macromedia Director allow graphic designers to script interactivity into their 2D content. The future will bring authoring tools that allow
non-technical users to design interactive content for virtual 3D environments with a similar ease.

Trends will continue to push the separation between CAVE-like environments, video game systems, and web-based 3D content towards one another. As these
gaps close, ordinary people will increasingly be creating interactive 3D content that can be shown effortlessly on a myriad of multi-media devices. Content will flow seamlessly from cell-phones and handheld computers to large room-size projection devices. In the future, VR will no longer be an area of visualization unreachable by ordinary people, it will merely be what happens when people decide that they want to step directly into their visualization.

Computer Graphics & Urban Planning
  What is Virtual Reality?
  What is a CAVE and why use it?
  VR & the Web
  Current & Future state of VR
  Ongoing projects
Overview of Classes & Program
  Newspace versus EVL computers
Project Fundamentals
  Collect Data
  Construct Models
  Apply Textures
  Program Interactivity
  Output to Display Device