Desktop virtual reality or interactive photography

Desktop VR was first developed by Apple Computer in 1994 as part of their QuickTime operating system extension. Apple's QuickTime media-handling technology is now one of the major accepted standards for animation and video display on the Internet and in multi-media based CD ROM titles. The recently released version 4.0 of QuickTime includes an even wider range of supported media and graphic types, including URL linking via hotspots within movies. It is a cross-platform, multi-component technology providing standard 2D, 3D, sound, compression, and sprite handling file formats.

QuickTime Virtual Reality (QTVR) is one of these components. QTVR is the original and most widely used 'Desktop VR' system, with an established user base, and lots of third party software and hardware. It operates within the metaphor of a 'scene', utilising two closely integrated modes - panoramic VR and object VR.

A panoramic VR is created from a single 360° image that might be produced using a specialist panoramic camera, a 3D modelling or landscape rendering program, or a series of overlapping photographic images 'stitched' together in Apple's excellent Authoring Studio software. The scene is viewed through a window that is much like a camera viewfinder. Dragging the input device rotates the viewpoint allowing a full 360° panorama to be examined.

An object VR is created by systematically capturing a series of images of an object from every possible direction, usually by rotating the object on a turntable. Combined together in the Authoring Studio, the images can be replayed smoothly under the viewer's control in such a way that it appears the object is being rotated interactively around any axis.

QTVR 'scenes' allow users to rotate their viewpoint (or 'node') through 360°, horizontally and vertically, zoom in and out, jump to new viewpoints, select and examine objects (that can also be fully rotated), or access a database, multi-media presentation or web-site via 'hot-spots' within the view. Fully nodal QTVR scenes can be viewed on any platform that has a recent version of QuickTime installed, but they can only be developed on Apple Macintosh systems (though third party authoring software for Windows-based machines can produce similar effects).

Recent developments by Apple in both the QuickTime system and its VR component have made the latest version much easier to use, and improved the interface with the web. QTVR still seems the best option for the present but several other companies have introduced rival systems with much of the functionality of QTVR and some unique abilities that are worth considering here.

For example, the biggest rival to QTVR is Live Picture's Reality Studio. This can produce multi-node panoramas, hot-spot links to other nodes, objects and URLs, object VRs and, uniquely, VRML objects. Generally Live Picture's movies are smaller and faster than QTVR's and are integrated with VRML, but are much less integrated with the rest of the host operating system. They can be both generated and navigated on either Macintosh or Windows platforms.


© Internet Archaeology URL:
Last updated: Fri Aug 25 2000