Technical Report CIS9623

Title: Mapping Data to Virtual Environments
Authors: Gershon Elber and Oded Shmueli
Abstract: This paper describes a language and a system for mapping data onto a virtual reality environment. The data may originate as a database query, a WWW query or as a data file. We assume that the data is given in tabular form. Generally, each cell in the table may be either an atomic object, e.g. an integer or a LaTeX file (thought of as a typed string). Each cell of the table may in principle be a complete structure, a tuple, a set or a table, recursively; in this paper we shall only treat tables whose cells contain atomic values. The virtual environment consists of {\em scenes}. A scene contains inter-related {\em objects}, e.g. a bookshelf. The mapping assigns {\em content} to scene's objects, e.g. inserting a book with images into a bookshelf. The mapping may also induce {\em scene manipulations}, e.g. opening a door. The scene itself is internally represented by a {\em scene database}. The mapping language can directly operate on this database as well, so it can function as a {\em scene maintenance mechanism}. The system exploits pre-defined useful high level parametric objects that are known everywhere, e.g. a file cabinet, a bookshelf, a phone. Moreover, it allows the definition of new parameteric geometry with the aid of a distributed solid modeling kernel. This saves on network traffic and enables a universally known vocabulary. The system is designed to enable incremental changes to scenes (e.g. a new call for papers is attached to a bill board). It will also enable navigation from one virtual scene to another via anchors. Scenes are interacted with using a six degrees of freedom mouse and a head mounted display. The system is currently in advanced implementation stages, using the IRIT solid modeling environment~\cite{Irit96} and Silicon Graphics Performer.
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