Interactive examples of the innovative ways communicators are using the WWW will be presented in this workshop (not recommended for those prone to motion sickness!). Technology has progressed to the stage where a book, a science centre and a science laboratory can be explored over the Internet.
 
CTC (http://www.tc.cornell.edu) has developed an online science book, Explorations, incorporating 3D files based on scientific data as illustrations. Immersive technologies, which allow the lay viewer to fly into and through files using computers, were used in the science book and a WWW-based museum exhibit.
 
The NSTC (http://freenet.actein.edu.au/Questacon) has developed an online science centre incorporating immersive technologies. Visitors can explore exhibitions, participate in research or download activities.
 
CEM (http://www.enmech.csiro.au) has developed an interactive science lab and an online science soap opera. The former enables researchers to access OEM's atmospheric models to solve wind flow problems and the latter aims to promote science using a photo serial on the WWW.
 
As a part of its mission, the Cornell Theory Center (CTC), one of four U.S. supercomputing centers funded better by the National Science Foundation, communicates information about research conducted using its resources (hardware, software, and staff expertise) through a variety of media at several levels of technical detail (http://www.tc.cornell.edu). This work includes production of CTC's 1996 online science book, Explorations.
 
In the transition to online publication, we aimed to retain the graphic appeal of previous hard copy books while experimenting with leading-edge Web technologies. This meant that our development of Explorations was not constrained by the limitations associated with reaching the broadest audience possible. Instead, we attempted to balance new technologies and compatible hardware early on, and we focused the technical development of the publication at mid-level machines in this group, developing for an upcoming release of Netscape, which was the browser with the biggest share of the audience. In effect, we targeted the technology and the audience together.
 
Our biggest stretch in creating Explorations was incorporating 3D files based on scientific data into the site as illustrations for two of the feature stories. We wanted to allow the lay viewer to fly into and through files previously accessible only to the experienced researcher. The CTC scientific visualisation group is expert in 3D visualisation and deeply involved in leading edge development of immersive technologies for such applications as interactive moiecular modeling and 3D imaging for medical diagnosis. The concept of incorporating such files (translated into the virtual reality modeling language [VRML) format for viewing on the Web) into an online publication was attractive and a logical extension of the graphic features of the World Wide Web that had not been implemented at CTC.
 
I will first present a brief overview of immersive technologies (i.e., the technical options for viewing 3D files interactively using computers) and the current status of VRML technology. Then I will demonstrate our first efforts using VRML and discuss the obstacles to such Web-based applications, along with other issues currently being addressed by our group. Finally, I will report on our most recent application of VRML--a remote Web-based museum exhibit for the Milton J. Rubenstein Museum of Science and Technology in Syracuse, New York--and end by presenting some ideas for improving the application of VRML for the communication of science.
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 [PCST]
PCST Network

Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Virtual Reality in science communication on the WWW

Margaret Corbit  

Simon Torok  

Stuart Kolhagen  

Interactive examples of the innovative ways communicators are using the WWW will be presented in this workshop (not recommended for those prone to motion sickness!). Technology has progressed to the stage where a book, a science centre and a science laboratory can be explored over the Internet.
 
CTC (http://www.tc.cornell.edu) has developed an online science book, Explorations, incorporating 3D files based on scientific data as illustrations. Immersive technologies, which allow the lay viewer to fly into and through files using computers, were used in the science book and a WWW-based museum exhibit.
 
The NSTC (http://freenet.actein.edu.au/Questacon) has developed an online science centre incorporating immersive technologies. Visitors can explore exhibitions, participate in research or download activities.
 
CEM (http://www.enmech.csiro.au) has developed an interactive science lab and an online science soap opera. The former enables researchers to access OEM's atmospheric models to solve wind flow problems and the latter aims to promote science using a photo serial on the WWW.
 
As a part of its mission, the Cornell Theory Center (CTC), one of four U.S. supercomputing centers funded better by the National Science Foundation, communicates information about research conducted using its resources (hardware, software, and staff expertise) through a variety of media at several levels of technical detail (http://www.tc.cornell.edu). This work includes production of CTC's 1996 online science book, Explorations.
 
In the transition to online publication, we aimed to retain the graphic appeal of previous hard copy books while experimenting with leading-edge Web technologies. This meant that our development of Explorations was not constrained by the limitations associated with reaching the broadest audience possible. Instead, we attempted to balance new technologies and compatible hardware early on, and we focused the technical development of the publication at mid-level machines in this group, developing for an upcoming release of Netscape, which was the browser with the biggest share of the audience. In effect, we targeted the technology and the audience together.
 
Our biggest stretch in creating Explorations was incorporating 3D files based on scientific data into the site as illustrations for two of the feature stories. We wanted to allow the lay viewer to fly into and through files previously accessible only to the experienced researcher. The CTC scientific visualisation group is expert in 3D visualisation and deeply involved in leading edge development of immersive technologies for such applications as interactive moiecular modeling and 3D imaging for medical diagnosis. The concept of incorporating such files (translated into the virtual reality modeling language [VRML) format for viewing on the Web) into an online publication was attractive and a logical extension of the graphic features of the World Wide Web that had not been implemented at CTC.
 
I will first present a brief overview of immersive technologies (i.e., the technical options for viewing 3D files interactively using computers) and the current status of VRML technology. Then I will demonstrate our first efforts using VRML and discuss the obstacles to such Web-based applications, along with other issues currently being addressed by our group. Finally, I will report on our most recent application of VRML--a remote Web-based museum exhibit for the Milton J. Rubenstein Museum of Science and Technology in Syracuse, New York--and end by presenting some ideas for improving the application of VRML for the communication of science.

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