CS 5754: Virtual Environments
Students will work on a semester-long project that will comprise a major part (50%) of the class grade. These projects may be done in groups of 2 or 3, depending on their size and scope. All projects will be based on the same general theme (see below). Teams will complete the projects in five phases (with the proposal comprising the first phase), and each team member will take a leading role on at least one of the phases. These intermediate milestones will be used not only for grading purposes, but also to judge progress and so that any needed adjustments can be made. Students will present the results of their projects during the last full week of the semester.
Students will have access to high-end VE hardware including head-mounted displays, tracking systems, the VT-CAVE, and VisWalls, as well as desktop systems, allowing them to produce prototype VE applications or experimental environments. Here are links to information on the VT-CAVE, the 3DI lab, the DIVERSE API, and the SVE library.
All student projects will involve evaluations in which human subjects will be used. Therefore, the project must be submitted to the Institutional Review Board (IRB) for approval. No exceptions will be made to this policy. IRB information is provided here.
In the past, some student projects have been good enough to be submitted as a short or full paper at a VE-related conference. The instructor may invite some students to do this based on their class projects. In such cases, the final report requirement will be waived.
Projects will be based on the general theme "Demonstrating the benefits of immersion," as discussed during the second week of class. Immersive VE technology has been available for many years, but there are few real-world applications of the technology in common use, and even fewer pieces of empirical evidence that immersion is beneficial.
Students will design and run experiments based on specific hypotheses about potential benefits of immersion. For example, students might investigate how much immersion is actually needed for effective phobia therapy using VEs. Or students might try to find situations where spatial understanding of an environment is enhanced by immersive technologies.
The aggregate output of the course should be an interesting and diverse set of results indicating particular benefits of immersive VEs. Students will be contributing to a larger research effort and will be producing new knowledge for the VE research community.
NOTE: If you have a different project topic in mind that is relevant to your own research, this may still be possible. Please talk to Dr. Bowman as soon as possible to see if the topic is appropriate.
Project phases, deadlines, and grading
Student projects have five phases, outlined below. Multiple phases of the project will likely overlap in time (e.g. the literature review and implementation may run in parallel, or the initial experiment design may be developed before implementation is complete). Each phase, however, has a specific, graded deliverable with a deadline, so that project groups continue to progress throughout the semester. Recall that the entire project is worth 50 points. The leadership component is worth the final 5 project points. The activities in each phase will be somewhat different depending on the project topic, but the general outline of each phase is presented below.
Phase I: Proposal – In this phase, project groups will form (2 or 3 students in each group), and groups will develop an informal project proposal.
Phase II: Literature review – In this phase, groups will survey the existing literature relevant to their chosen project topic, and produce an annotated bibliography (here are some tips on peforming a good literature review for VEs).
Phase III: Design and Implementation – In this phase, groups will develop the 3D environments and software necessary to complete an experiment on their chosen topic.
Phase IV: Exploratory study – In this phase, groups will design and run an informal experiment.
Phase V: Formal study – In this phase, groups will design and run a formal experiment.
Working in a project team
As you probably know from other class or real-world experiences, working on group projects can be frustrating. Group projects are necessary in this course, however, in order to provide sufficient lab resources to each project and in order to enable projects to produce significant research in a single semester. In addition, working with a project team is important experience for all students to obtain.
To make working with your project team a pleasant experience, please be sure to get to know your teammates well at the beginning of the semester. Communicate with each other constantly, not just by email, but also with face-to-face meetings at least weekly. Agree together on project goals, directions, and especially the responsibilities of each team member. You may want to read the following document by Randy Pausch: Tips for working successfully in a group.
All members of a team are expected to contribute equally to the project over the course of the semester, and by default each team member will receive the same project grade. However, if there are problems, the instructor reserves the right to adjust individual project grades accordingly. To help ensure that team members take individual responsibility for the project, each team should assign a project leader to each phase of the project except the proposal phase. Each team member should serve as a project leader at least once during the course of the semester. Project leaders are expected to take the overall responsibility for a phase (by leading meetings, organizing the rest of the team, ensuring that work gets done on time, etc.). However, all team members are expected to contribute to each phase. Because phases III and V are more difficult than phases II and IV, leadership needs to be assigned carefully. For two-person groups, there should be one person that is a project leader for both phases II and V and the other group member is expected to lead phases III and IV. For three-person groups, there will be one person that serves as project leader twice. Because they are project leader twice, they are expected to lead the easier phases (II and IV). The other team members will act as project leader once and for either task III or V. At the end of each phase, each team member (including the leader) will be asked to submit an evaluation of the team leader. These evaluations will be used to assign the 5 project leadership points. If you lead twice then the first phase you lead will be worth 2 points and the second will be worth the other 3 points.
The group evaluation form is available. Each individual student should fill out one of these forms and return it to Dr. Bowman by April 30.
Other relevant pages