Internship Project:

 

Virtual Reality Walkthrough of ICEE Lab

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

December 10, 2004

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By:

 

Justin Nosser

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Introduction

 

            The significance of my project is to improve the ICEE Web site by providing a virtual walkthrough of the ICEE lab online. The virtual walkthrough will be interactive and allow users to access different aspects of the ICEE Web site by clicking a 3D model such as a computer monitor. The virtual walkthrough will not only provide an interactive experience for the user, it will also provide important information about ICEE such as the people involved, the projects currently being researched, and contact information [1].

            The technological tools that will be used to complete the 3D virtual walkthrough will be X3D and VizX3D. Autodesk VIZ 2005 will be used to export 3D model files to X3D format and it will be used for some modeling if necessary. X3D, the newest version of VRML (Virtual Reality Modeling Language) is a scene description language, similar to HTML, which allows someone to integrate 3D graphics and multimedia and produce a viewable 3D world on the Internet [2]. VizX3D is a new and powerful X3D authoring tool that uses a familiar Windows GUI framework and allows the user to import their own VRML code, export interactive 3D scenes as VRML and X3D, and much more [3]. These powerful tools will be used to create the 3D interactive virtual walkthrough of the ICEE lab.

            The only foreseeable constraints with the virtual walkthrough are that it will run at a slower speed on computers with 64 MB or less RAM. It may run slower on dial-up Internet connections, but since VRML environments depend more on the computer itself and not the Internet connection, this may not be a problem. Otherwise, the application should run smoothly as long as the user has the proper plug-in to view VRML.  

 

Technical Expert

 

            Dr. Desmond Fletcher and Chad Marcum are highly experienced and skilled in virtual reality and 3D modeling and will provide any needed assistance during the course of this project.

 

Risk Analysis

 

            One potential weakness in this project depends on the user’s computer hardware and software. If the user does not have the correct Internet browser or the correct plug-in installed, they will have problems viewing and interacting with the X3D world. All one needs to view X3D is a VRML player which are available for free over the Web. Most VRML players, such as Cortona VRML Client, are compatible with browsers such as Internet Explorer and Netscape. Some stand-alone players, such as GL View, are available as well. There will be a link below the VRML link on the ICEE Web site which will read: “Problems? Click Here”. This link will open a separate window explaining why the user might be having trouble viewing the VRML virtual walkthrough and provide them solutions such as a link to download a VRML player plug-in.

 

 

 

 

Resource Requirements

 

            The software required to complete this project is VizX3D. Autodesk VIZ 2005 will be used only when necessary. The minimum software requirements to run VizX3D are Windows 98, Me, NT, and 2000 editions. The VizX3D license has been acquired by ICEE and is installed in the ICEE computer lab. No minimum or recommended hardware requirements for VizX3D are specified, but it is recommended that graphic card drivers be updated if software malfunctions. The Autodesk VIZ 2005 license has been acquired by the University of Southern Mississippi and is installed in the technology computer lab, room 233 in the Bobby Chain Technology building.

            The ICEE Web site directories and files are located on a personal ICEE server located in the ICEE lab, TEC room 231. The server’s hardware includes an Intel Pentium 4 2.66 GHz CPU, 512 MB RAM, and a 55.8 GB hard drive. The operating system installed is Windows Server 2003. The ICEE server’s resources should be more than adequate to run the 3D virtual walkthrough of the ICEE lab.

            Once the project is completed and uploaded to the ICEE Web site, a user will need an Internet connection, an Internet browser such as Internet Explorer and Netscape, and a VRML player plug-in such as Cortona VRML Client to view and interact with the 3D virtual walkthrough of the ICEE lab.

 

Work Breakdown

 

            The first phase of this project is X3D research. A search on the Internet will be made for Web sites containing X3D environments (mainly virtual walkthroughs) and models. The url address of these Web sites will be placed on the ICEE Web site under the VRML Related Links section. Please refer to the Gantt chart in Appendix A for time.

The second phase of the project is to gather the interior specifications of the ICEE lab, TEC room 231. An inventory list containing all computers, printers, furniture, and other stationary objects will be prepared. A floor plan sketch will also be made. The inventory list will include detailed descriptions of all computer hardware (whether tower or desktop), the number of computers, and any additional information deemed necessary. Height and width measurements will be taken of the walls, windows, doors, desks, tables, cubicle walls, and other stationary objects. Color will be another detail included in the inventory list. The textures of very object are very important so pictures will be taken of all the different textures in the ICEE lab and then used in the creation of the 3D models. Please refer to the Gantt chart in Appendix A for time.  

            The third phase of the project begins the process of creating a 3D model of the ICEE lab using the detailed inventory list and photographs. The walls, windows, floor, ceiling and doors will be constructed first in VizX3D. Unique items listed in the inventory will be created individually in VizX3D. Conventional objects such as computer monitors and keyboards will be obtained from a free 3D modeling resource Web site such as 3dCafe [4]. Once the objects are shaped, the necessary textures or colors will be applied to each object. The finished products will then be placed inside the walls, and arranged accurately according to the floor plan sketch. Multiple objects inside the ICEE lab that are identical such as computer monitors, computer towers, computer desktops, chairs, desks, and tables will be referenced. Referencing in VizX3D will enable the creation of compressed copies of a 3D object in the scene and reduce processing time. Once all of the models are arranged correctly, the lighting of the scene is the last step before saving the file. There are three types of lighting in VizX3D: directional, spot, and point. Directional lighting depicts a light source from far away such as the sun. The light emitted is parallel to the direction and objects in the scene are affected by it. Spot light is very similar to a flash light and only objects within the beam will be illuminated. Point light is very similar to a light bulb and it shoots light in all directions. Please refer to the Gantt chart in Appendix A for time.

            The fourth phase of the project is adding nodes to the environment. The three main nodes that will be used in the X3D file are the Anchor node, Sound node, and the Background node. The Anchor node creates a link in an X3D file by embedding the link in an object [5]. The Anchor node will connect to a specified url such as another X3D file or an HTML file when the user runs a mouse over the object contained within the Anchor node [5]. Some of the different 3D objects in the X3D scene will be included in Anchor nodes. Once the user clicks on one of these objects, a new window will open and link to one of the Web pages on the ICEE Web site. The Sound node will provide a location for the sound source and also the spatial properties meaning the use of either 3D or ambient sound [6]. The background music will be an ambient MIDI file and will remain at the same volume no matter where the user is inside of the virtual walkthrough. The MIDI music will be downloaded from mightymidi.com, a free source of original MIDI music files for use by the public [7]. The Background node will provide the X3D world with an infinite horizon that can be defined using gradient colors or photorealistic textures projected onto the six sides of an infinitely large cube known as a sky box [8]. The images that are bundled with Windows XP Professional will be placed on the sky box to make up the horizon that the user will be able to see from the ICEE lab windows within the virtual walkthrough. Please refer to the Gantt chart in Appendix A for time.

            The fifth phase will be testing the new product. Once the X3D file is saved in VizX3D (filename.wrl), it will be placed on the ICEE Web server in the ICEE Web site directory. The X3D file will be placed on the Web site for a period of one week for testing purposes. Members of ICEE will perform test runs on the virtual walkthrough using different Internet browsers and provide feedback. Please refer to the Gantt chart in Appendix A for time.

            The sixth and final phase will be making the necessary modifications or improvements to the X3D environment, if any, and placing the final product back on to the ICEE server and Web site. Please refer to the Gantt chart in Appendix A for time.

 

Project Schedule

 

            Each task of this project is dependent on the previous task. For instance, models of the ICEE lab can not be created accurately without the detailed inventory list and photographs. The tasks of this project are chronological and step one must be finished before step two can begin and so on. Once the project is complete and testing is finished, chronology is no longer a requirement and the necessary corrections and modifications can be made to the project. Please refer to Figure 1 in Appendix A for Gantt chart including tasks to be completed and milestones.

 

Monitoring and Reporting

 

            Activity on this project will be recorded in a scientific journal and on the weekly time sheets required for ICEE. Time will be logged in the scientific journal and on the time sheets required for ICEE. The scientific journal will be maintained by the project leader throughout the course of the project. The weekly time sheets will also be kept by the project leader and copies will be provided to the ICEE Director, Dr. Tulio Sulbaran. Upon completion of the project and the internship with ICEE, a final internship report will be prepared and submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for ENT 496.

 

 

 

References

 

[1] ICEE., MS. Innovation for Construction and Engineering

            Enhancement organization hosting the ICEE Web server and Web site. ICEE. [Online]. Available: http://icee.usm.edu

 

[2] Web3D Consortium., CA. Open Standards for Real-Time 3D Communication. Web3D. [Online]. Available: http://www.web3d.org/x3d/specifications/vrml/ISO_IEC_14772-All/part1/scope.html

 

[3] VizX3D., OH. VizX3D. Real time 3D authoring tool. VizX3d. [Online]. Available: http://www.vizx3d.com/features.html

 

[4] 3DCafe., WI. Free online resource of 3D models for public use. 3DCAfe. [Online]. Available: http://www.3dcafe.com/asp/default.asp

 

[5] dForm. A design Web site that provides VRML resources. dForm. [Online]. Available: http://www.dform.com/inquiry/tutorials/3dsmax/anchor/

 

[6] Fernandes, António Ramires. Lighthouse3D. A free VRML information access Web site. Lighthouse3D. [Online]. Available: http://www.lighthouse3d.com/vrml/tutorial/index.shtml?sound

 

[7] Bob’s Mighty MIDI. A online source for original MIDI music free for use to the public. Bob’s Mighty MIDI. [Online]. Available: http://www.mightymidi.com/songs.html#original

 

[8] Construct3D., Australia. Tutorial Web site about VRML concepts. Construct3D. [Online]. Available: http://www.virtualrealms.com.au/vrml/tute01/tutorial_01/05_environ_01_background.htm

 

 

Appendix A

 

Figure 1: Gantt Chart