Research in the eScience team is organized around eScience
General fields of interest
- Software engineering of VR/Networked systems.
- 3D soundscapes.
- Computational science and engineering; user interfaces to scientific software.
- Computational plasma physics.
- CVE (Collaborative Virtual Environment).
- Data visualization.
- Java3D, CAVE, Teaching (remote and local).
- GrangeNet (Grid and Next Generation Network : Australian High Bandwidth
Hardware : The Wedge and
The Wedge is a two-walled stereoscopic theatre resembling a mini-CAVE.
It was originally built as a home-brew alternative to purchasing
a commercial system for a cash-strapped university but has also found
a place in Australian museums and visitor centres. The original software
interface was written in C++ and OpenGL. Several higher level APIs, based
on Python and Optimizer/Cosmo3D, Performer and Avango have been used to
build Wedge applications. Today, we are using Java3D as a basis for our
Like the CAVE, the Wedge enables participants to see each other, the
environment and themselves as well as viewing a 3D stereographic scene.
It is suitable for collaborative virtual reality even though only one
viewer has the correct viewpoint. In fact, where the system has been used
in museums and visitor centres, it has been found expedient to fix a viewpoint
in a central location and eliminate headtracking. Depending on the nature
of the visualization the experience of being a simple, companion viewer
can be quite a thrilling one for members of the general public.
When a lead viewer moves his or her head position, the 3D perspective
graphics can rotate relative to the fixed theatre.
The Domino : a one-handed keypad controller
|We have found that navigation and selection in the Wedge has been usefully
facilitated using a custom-made, one-handed keypad controller developed
by Hugh Fisher. Nicknamed the Domino, it gives a user nine different
keys and can be operated using only one hand
Software : development of TIWI
To facilitate student access to the Wedge, we have built a new Java3D software
toolkit (the Tracked Interactive Wedge Interface - TIWI - developed initially
by David Walsh). Even if it has been rumoured that the next release of Java
3D will include a new utility to configure CAVE like system (ConfiguredUniverse),
we could not organize our student projects around a simple announcement. So,
we have developed a SimpleUniverse like package that allows students to work
on any simple PC in their lab and just transfer their code to the Wedge platform
to run it without (almost!) any change.
The choice of Java
The choice of Java
as a teaching language is not really original. Horstmann and Cornel give
us, in their analysis of the Java White Paper Buzzwords (Core Java
2, Volume I Fundamentals), a set of good reasons to choose this language
in general (Simple, Object Oriented, Distributed, Robust, Secure
has really interested us in the context of our teaching goals is the ability
to get, at the same time, some strong graphical interface capabilities (Java2D,
Java3D), as well a Java's networking orientation (JMF, Shared Data Toolkit).
The hidden drawback of this rich set of APIs is, nevertheless, the fact than
when using some of then, you may lose the famous write once, run everywhere
characteristics of Java. Java3D or JMF, for instance are not yet available on
Examples of student projects
3D sound sculpturing
||The first example is a software system, which has evolved through two
student projects (by eScience student Rod Harris and Engineering student
Emma Francis) using Java3D and TIWI. The object of the system is to interactively
design a 3D spatial soundscape. The composer is able to describe paths in
space and time and to place sounds on these paths. The soundscape can be
played back and edited either within the virtual environment itself or,
remotely, using a conventional 2D GUI. This system was proposed, and the
projects were supervised, by Stephen Barrass (CSIRO Mathematics and Information
Sciences) and the eScience group.
Course assignment : FSN in Java
|In Jurassic Park One, the little heroine used a 3D graphical interface
to UNIX to command the closing of a door. Students of the eScience computer
graphics course were asked as an assignment to create the same interface
in Java (without the dinosaurs!). Silicon Graphics (SGI) made the original
application some years ago (before 1992 indeed). The program was called
FSN: FSN (pronounced fusion) is a File System Navigator in cyberspace.
It lays out the directories in a hierarchy with each directory represented
by a pedestal. The height of the pedestal is proportional to the size of
the files in the directory.
Networked application Tiwi-TV
Tiwi-TV is a demo application that shows off the audio and video streaming
tools built in the escience.collab packages. It creates a sort of virtual lounge
room scene with a television in the foreground. The television displays streamed
video transmitted by another RTP video streaming application: typically a JMFStudio.
It also plays audio streamed in from remote applications and will transmit audio
out for others to hear. This allows Tiwi-TV to be used for simple video-conferencing
In its current form Tiwi-TV serves only as a basic demo of the Wedge and the
Tiwi toolkit. It needs further work to turn it into a truly useful (and robust)