Course Description

Introduction to VE

Over the past two decades the "field" of Virtual Reality (also known as Virtual Environments, Synthetic Environments, Virtual Worlds . . .) has matured and led to applications in a number of domains, such as scientific/engineering data visualization, training, education, and art. In a very real sense Virtual and Synthetic Environments (hereafter referred to as VEs) have no disciplinary home in the academy. The production of VEs draws from Computer Engineering, Computer Science (especially computer graphics), Electrical Engineering, Mathematics, Mechanical Engineering, and Psychology (especially perception). VE applications are found in an even wider range of disciplines. This circumstance has meant that developers and users of VEs have been mostly self-taught; that is, they learned by doing. While this method of learning is very powerful, it is not very efficient.

Purpose of the VE Course

The purpose of the course described here is to provide a systematic introduction to the underpinnings of VEs, Virtual Worlds, advanced displays and immersive technologies; and a short overview of some of the application areas. A student successfully completing this course will be able to participate in the design and development of VE applications as well as understand the capabilities and limitations of a VE application.


The course is intended for advanced undergraduates and beginning graduate students. These students will generally come as majors in or with undergraduate degrees from the disciplines listed above. It is expected that they will have a background in Mathematics through at least multi-variate calculus and have the basic courses in chemistry and physics as well as at least one course using a computer programming language. The course will be cross-listed in two dimensions: levels: senior undergraduate and beginning graduate (At Old Dominion University the course numbering will be 500 and 600); disciplines: most of those disciplines listed above as well as some application areas (At Old Dominion University these will be AE, CEE, CS, ECE, ENMA, ME, MSIM, and PSY).

Contents for the Course

This course begins by introducing the topic historically. An examination of human perception related to VEs follows. After describing the essential characteristics of VEs, the course will systematically cover the hardware needed to produce a useful VE. Special attention is given to interactions with the VE since this forms the basis for most successful VE applications. The software used to create VEs is then discussed. After dealing with a number of applications the course concludes by describing advanced displays and immersive technologies. A detailed course outline is attached.

The formal portion of the course is designed to occupy approximately 85% of a typical academic semester (about 32 hours). The remaining portion of the course is project based, with teams of students at each delivery site proposing the design and development of a specific VE application. If local resources permit, this portion of the course will be executed in a VE laboratory venue with support from local experts. If such facilities and experts are not available, a web-based approached to the project will be employed, supervised from Old Dominion University.

Instructors for the Course

The course will be taught by fourteen instructors from four institutions. A majority of the instructors have developed and taught VE courses at their respective institutions. Some have also authored textbooks on VEs. All have performed extensive research in both the foundational knowledge of VEs and with VE applications. Also, guest lecturers, representing software and hardware vendors will contribute to the course. A list of the instructors is in the attached course outline.

Course Delivery

An initial attempt to offer a multiuniversity course was made in the spring academic semester of 2002. Each of the contributors provided live instruction to delivery sites through two-way video and audio. The technology at that time was not adequate. The delivery system used for the fall 2007, uses more advanced technology.

Course Coordination

The course development and delivery will be coordinated by a team of four coordinators (one from each institution). Professor Ahmed Noor will be the Old Dominion University coordinator. Susan Boze (; phone: (757) 683-3172) of the Old Dominion University TeleTech Net organization will work with points of contact at each of the four institutions to provide for synchronous delivery. Each coordinator will be responsible for the students registered at his institution.

Delivery Sites

Each of the four institutions will have delivery site(s) at its locations.