Polhemus Powers Virtual Reality Application

Posted: October 13, 2006

COLCHESTER, VT, (October 13, 2006)----Polhemus, the industry leader of 6 Degree-Of-Freedom (6DOF) motion tracking, digitizing, eye-tracking and handheld 3D scanners, has provided its most recent release in tracking technology to Carnegie Mellon University's Entertainment Technology Center (ETC) for use in their "Building Virtual Worlds" class this semester at their Pittsburgh campus. Using the latest electromagnetic tracking technology, Polhemus has made another breakthrough in motion tracking technology with its LIBERTY™ system, which inserts virtual 3D objects into live video images creating a non-invasive, interactive environment that immerses the user in "augmented reality." ETC-PITTSBURGH is using two LIBERTY tracking systems to enrich the learning and playing experience for its first-year master's students taking the "Building Virtual Worlds" (BVW) course, a foundational element of the ETC's innovative curriculum, which awards graduates with the world's only master's of entertainment technology degree. 

Over the 15-week-long "Building Virtual Worlds" course, four-person student teams have about two weeks to create a virtual world or experience – from inception and design through scripting, graphics, rendering, programming, user testing and production to working prototype. Students are then assigned to new teams, given a different technology platform to use, and asked to tackle a different interactivity goal or feature as they create their next virtual experience in another two weeks.

Worlds generated by ETC students this semester with the Polhemus LIBERTY systems include an airy world where you take wing as an elegant white bird, soaring above a tranquil mountain landscape...and another world where you take the shape of a little green dragon skiing down a mountain pass, trying to elude snow bunnies on your left, big dragons crossing the path in front of you and snowmen hurling snowballs at you on the right. 

Created by Computer Science Professor and ETC Co-Founder Randy Pausch, the BVW course was inspired by the rapid prototyping methods used by Walt Disney Imagineering. The goal of the course is to take students with varying talents, backgrounds and perspectives, and put them together to do more than they could do alone, better than they could do it alone, to prototype worlds and experiences that engage users in bold, new ways. 

"We don't try to teach artists to program, or engineers to paint," Pausch has said in the past. "We form teams where everyone does what they're already skilled at doing, but they unite to attack a joint project."

This year, the course is taught by former Disney game developer Jesse Schell, assistant professor ofentertainment technology at the ETC and CEO of Schell Games. "Polhemus has been a dream to work with," said Schell. "The two systems showed up quickly, were easy to set up, and have made a huge difference in the quality of student work. Now the students can focus on the quality of the world itself, instead of worrying about the reliability of the tracking system." 

The Pittsburgh-based BVW course culminates in a raucous stage show this Dec. 6, where a juried selection of the best student work will be shared in front of a live, 500-person audience at Carnegie Mellon University's McConomy Auditorium. In addition to standing-room only crowds of students, faculty and alumni, past shows have attracted industry execs from companies such as DreamWorks, Electronic Arts and Pixar, who have flown to Pittsburgh from their corporate headquarters to attend the BVW show and talk with the ETC student developers afterward about internships, co-ops and possible hires.