The Virtual Campus
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'!
- Scenes that change as the user `walks' about. These scenes can be at
various levels of faithfulness, depending upon the browsing engine's
capacity to render graphical views.
- Other users browsing the world come into view as they or the user
navigate the virtual world. You can even `talk' to such virtual people!
- books on shelves that can be `picked up', `opened', and `read' on-line.
- lecture theatres that can be `entered' so that the user can `see' and
`hear' virtual lectures. These lectures could be real-time and on-line,
if suitable electronic interfacing between the real theatre and the
browser server were available. Lecture notes and other resources can be
made available directly from the browser.
- places that would not normally be open to access could be viewed,
such as hazardous areas; laboratories containing expensive equipment; or
rare book and art collections.
The project itself would undertake to deliver
- Browsers for exploring the Virtual Campus;
- Computer Models of the various Monash campuses, suitable for
browsing by the above; and
- Documents and Manuals for describing how other users could
develop software to be integrated within the system.
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.
Lloyd Allison (Reader, ComSci),
John Hurst (Assoc.Prof., ComSci),
Jon McCormack (Lecturer, ComSci).
Name of Host Faculty
Faculty of Computing and Information Technology
Time per Month
3 days per month on average, split between the co-developers.
Amount of Funds$46,800/2 = $23,400.
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
Related Material and References
The SIM Interactive Virtual World. (URL
here to enter the Virtual Computer Science Department. (URL
Internet, WWW and Multimedia Material for Teaching and Research
Department of Computer Science (URL
- The Department has amongst its staff Dr Ron Pose, who has
recently concluded a contract with a US-based company to develop a
virtual reality graphics engine. Dr Pose, together with his PhD
student, Dr Matthew Regan (see
Etcera, issue 9, 19 March 1996, page 1 Computer Science Awards)
have designed a novel piece of hardware that can render 3D graphics
for Virtual Reality much faster than conventional designs. This
hardware needs a lot more development before it could become widely
used in a project like this, but the expertise that lead to it is
available to this project, and we would expect further innovations and
insights to follow from the synergy between these projects.