Project Title

The Virtual Campus

Project Description

It is widely accepted that the Internet has caused a revolution in the way in which information is both presented and delivered around the world. The multimedia model of combined text, sound, still, motion and animated pictures gives the information provider a previously undreamt-of palette with which to deliver information. This project will take that model a step further, and allow the Internet user a Virtual Reality style of interaction with the Web, in which different users can meet and explore the Monash campuses electronically. Hence the title of this project: The Virtual Campus.

The technology of the Internet has reached a stage where significant paradigm shifts of information presentation are possible. New developments such as Java (TM) and VRML imply new models of interaction with the Web world. We believe that the time is opportune to offer an exciting new way of visualizing the knowledge base presented by a university such as Monash, with its multiple campuses and distributed pedagogic delivery modes.

This project is about integrating the whole gamut of media delivery, at least at the technological end of the spectrum. We propose to develop an implementation of the Virtual Campus, which will allow a World Wide Web browser to `virtually' tour all campuses, all libraries, all departments, all lectures theatres ... in short, to `explore' via a WWW-capable system all the knowledge repositories of the University.

It must be emphasized that this is a significantly enhanced model of WWW browsing: the user sees not just the different fragments of information presented as pages (with multimedia capabilities), but also s/he is able to navigate around a virtual world, a model of the campus. This model provides

These models give new meaning to the term `The Open University'!

The project itself would undertake to deliver

Subject Name and Student Loads

The proposed system is not directed at any one subject, year or course offering, but rather is proposed as a potential Monash-wide system that could dramatically enhance the electronic image that Monash might wish to project to the world. The words image and project can be interpreted both literally and metaphorically, and suggest that the use of the proposed paradigm will have outcomes on several fronts.

Developers

Lloyd Allison (Reader, ComSci), John Hurst (Assoc.Prof., ComSci), Jon McCormack (Lecturer, ComSci).

Name of Host Faculty

Faculty of Computing and Information Technology

Host Department

Computer Science

Time per Month

3 days per month on average, split between the co-developers.

Amount of Funds

$46,800/2 = $23,400.

Budget

We seek funds to support a programmer full-time for one year. A suitable level is programmer level 3006.3 = $36,435 pa + 26% on-costs, or $45,908. The department has suitable equipment available, however, more disk space would assist in the management of the project. A suitable disk of 1Gb capacity costs around $900. Total funds required = $46,800. The department also has on staff a programmer with the necessary skills, and would contribute half of the requested amount in kind, leaving a balance of $23,400.

Minimum Amount for Viability

If necessary, the project could be started on a half-time basis, without the extra disk space, when the minimum amount for viability would amount to $45,908/4 = $11,477

Previous Successful Activities

The Department of Computer Science has developed a prototype system that demonstrates these features. See The SIM Interactive Virtual World. This system allows users to interact through a number of interfaces, depending upon their system and the software available. A World Wide Web interface allows access to all users anywhere in the world who have an HTML browser of the capability of XMosaic or Netscape. For users without access to Netscape or Mosaic, a text-only interface is available, which presents a world model similar to that used by many early adventure games.

These browsers are very limited in the style of graphics that they can achieve, and hence more sophisticated interfaces are available. The first of these is an X11 client, which can run on any Unix/Macintosh/Intel workstation that has X11 capability. It provides 3 dimensional graphics at adequate rendering speeds. However, much better performance can be realized through a special purpose program, written using Silicon Graphics Inventor 3D graphics toolkit, and only available on Silicon Graphics machines.

All of these client browsers have been written and are available at Computer Science. We anticipate the project providing at least one other client model, based upon 3D graphical rendering using the Java (TM) technology which has only recently become available. Java is now part of the Netscape browser, hence this model would have almost universal availability to users of the Web.

Related Material and References

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