Masters thesis submitted at last!

Phew! After an eventful last seven years, I finally managed to get my Masters thesis submitted this week to Nottingham University. The title? Wait for it…..

The use of 2D views to aid interaction and visualisation within 3D Collaborative Virtual Environments

When I started it I was a partner in a new tech startup called RealiMation Ltd, and doing a research degree into some aspect of collaborative virtual reality was a natural extension to my work. But shortly after I started, RealiMation was acquired by Criterion Software, and a few years later by Electronic Arts, which in combination provided a radical – yet enjoyable – change in life. But I persevered, and finally manage to submit my thesis seven years after I started. Apparently this is not the record, however, which was somewhat disappointing!

At the time of writing I have no idea if I have passed, but that’s almost beside the point. I could so easily have given up, but stuck at it and produced a decent piece of work in the end.

Just for interest, here’s the abstract:

The goal of this thesis is to present research into technology to support the production of events created within three dimensional computer generated collaborative virtual environments (CVE’s). The demands of the roles of different participants, and the tasks they perform, are examined in a variety of different application areas including command and control, multiplayer networked games, and the broadcast of televised events performed within a virtual space.

Published research into subjectivity tends to concentrate on subjective filtering mechanisms for 3D perspective views, normally from the first person view point. The focus of the research presented here, however, is the feasibility of utilizing parallel map-centric projections within a CVE application as a type of subjective view to be used alongside the perspective view.

The experimental phase of the research resulted in the conclusion that some type of overview visualisation is needed to help users understand what is going on within a CVE. An additional finding was the need to be able to add extra annotation information only within the overview, which in turn implies subjective layering features so that such annotation only appears in views used by the management roles, and not by the regular participants themselves.

The conclusions are combined with a set of observations from other related application areas to present a set of requirements for CVE software systems. The requirements relate to the awareness of activity within the performance, and of interactive navigation tools to allow this information to be exploited. Details are given of an implementation of these requirements for the MASSIVE-3 collaborative virtual environment. Key features of the implementation such as the object model are discussed as having potential to be extracted and used in other CVE frameworks. Areas for future research based upon the experience of this software are outlined.

The body of the thesis is now in review and pending a vivre – unless of course it is rejected out of hand as a pile of old junk.

One interesting thing to point out is that the practical part of the research work that I did in support of a live event called Avatar Farm was referred to and discussed in at least two publications. One was an article in the Communications of the ACM (July 2001), and another was a paper as part of an Esprit project.

Update: November 2007 – I got news that I have been awarded my Masters (an MPhil) based on this thesis. So not a pile of junk after all then!

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