WORCESTER, Mass. – Oct. 9, 2008 – Two Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) students have invented a whole new and unique perspective – a 3D one, in fact – of the university’s campus by creating the "WPImap Kiosk."
The cutting-edge technology stems from a required-for-graduation student research project and has been adopted by the university’s admissions office in the Bartlett Center as a means to help prospective students, parents, and current students to better explore and learn more about the WPI campus. The kiosk, which is located in the university’s Campus Center, houses a 3D virtual map of the campus and allows the user to “walk around” campus in a virtual setting. But if walking seems too “last century,” users also have the option to “hop on” a Segway human transport vehicle – invented by one of WPI’s most famous alums, Dean Kamen – to take their virtual tour of campus, a journey that is accompanied by seven minutes of audio.
This invention started as an Interactive Qualifying Project (IQP) – one of three projects WPI students must undertake before graduation – and was completed last spring by students Alexander Schwartz of New Fairfield, Conn., and Elisabeth Beinke of Norwalk, Conn., who are seniors at WPI. Humanities and Arts Professor Joseph Farbrook served as advisor, with input from WPI’s Admissions Office.
“Not only is the kiosk a great tool for visitors to explore WPI’s campus in a virtual environment, but it is also a great example of the innovative work our students are doing,” said Edward J. Connor, WPI’s director of admissions. “I enjoyed working with the team of students throughout the year, and their final product exceeded my expectations. The attention to detail and the accurate depiction of the campus in the virtual environment is amazing. As WPI’s campus continues to grow and change over the years, I hope that future WPI students will expand and enhance the virtual environment.”
Akin to a 1980s arcade game, the kiosk features a joystick and trackball, and users can navigate around the 3D environment in real time, viewing all of the buildings and campus landmarks in photorealistic detail. Outside the virtual Bartlett Center, home of WPI’s admissions and financial aid offices, players will notice a Segway. Upon stepping onto it, a full campus tour starts, complete with a virtual tour guide and a scripted path through all of the academic and residential buildings. The map will be continually developed and updated as the WPI campus evolves.
“One of the major goals in creating this project was to provide an interactive way for current and prospective students to experience the campus,” Beinke and Schwartz said in a joint statement. “We also aimed to provide a way to tour campus for those unable to visit in person. With the ability to download the whole tour and 3D map onto a personal computer, anyone can take the tour for themselves at http://maps.wpi.edu/map/?id=609.”
Schwartz and Beinke, both 21, are majors in the first-in-the-nation Interactive Media & Game Development (IMGD) program, which WPI launched three years ago. The four-year undergraduate program blends both the artistic and technical aspects of game creation. Students receive a base education in both the artistic (art, music, and story), and technical (programming) aspects, and then select an artistic or technical concentration as the focus for the remainder of their program. They are also required to study social and philosophical issues associated with games and related media. The IMGD major (www.imgd.wpi.edu) is administered by WPI’s computer science and humanities and arts departments.
“We wanted to apply what we learned in the IMGD program and expand it to create something that is not only useful to many people, but would have long lasting appeal,” Schwartz and Beinke said. “This academic year, we will advise students in WPI’s Game Development Club on expanding the virtual campus to include more interiors and even more detail.”