Introduction to Virtual/Augmented Reality and Telepresence


(Fall 2020)


Ivan Sutherland`s HMD (1968)

Modern HMDs (Today)


General Information

Instructor: Pierre Boulanger
Tel: 780-492-3031

Office: 411 Athabasca Hall
Office hours: By appointment only.

Lectures: Tuesday and Thursday 7h30 to 8h50

Room: Remote



n  Garett Hunter
Office Hours: Friday 10 am - 11 am (Zoom)

n  Thea Wang
Office Hour: Wednesday 8 pm- 9 pm (Zoom)

n  Gabriel Lugo Bustillo
Office hour: Monday 8 pm- 9 pm (Zoom)

Course Description

Virtual reality and augmented reality can provide an immersive environment where many scenarios can be simulated. For example, manufacturing and engineering tasks, medical planning and training, art and design, rehabilitation, Physics, Biology and Chemistry concept exploration, and many others can benefit from a virtual reality environment. This course focuses on the challenges of setting up a user-friendly virtual reality scene where users can interact intuitively and naturally. The use of interactive techniques and sensor-based devices, such as haptic and head-mount display, in creating a virtual environment for scientific analysis, visualization exploration, and Tele-presence, as well as how mobile users can participate in these applications, will be discussed.


Some knowledge of computer graphics and multimedia systems



Assignments must be submitted electronically to . Most of the assignments will be using Unity 3D or Unreal Engine.

There will be five problem sets. Don't be misled by the relatively few points assigned to homework grades in the final grade calculation. While the grade that you get on your homework is at most a minor component of your final grade, working the problems is a crucial part of the learning process and will invariably have a significant impact on your understanding of the material


Course Project

There will be a group project, culminating in a final ten pages report in IEEE format and a presentation at a day workshop. Progress and checkpoints before the last due date will count toward the final grade.


Course Grade

The final grade for the course is based on our best assessment of your understanding of the material, as well as your commitment and participation. The problem sets and final projects are combined to give a final grade:




Final Project


Assignments (5 x 10%)



Lecture Notes


Course calendar.





First Class

Class overview and Irene presentation

Class Overview



o   Definition of Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Virtualized Reality, and Telepresence

o   Generic Configuration of Virtual Reality Systems (image rendering systems, sound rendering systems, haptic rendering systems, communication systems, physical modeling systems, etc.)

o   Brief overview of the applications of Virtual Reality (in remote robotic control, in medicine, in e-commerce, in communication, in industrial design)



History of VR


Short Review of Computer Graphics

o   Overview and Transformations


Installing Unity 3D


1. Cameras

2. Image Effects: Overview


1. Meshes

2. Mesh Renderers and Mesh Filters

Assignment 1: Due 29 September

o   Lighting and Shading



1. Unity 5 Lighting Overview

2. Unity 5 - Lighting and Rendering

3. Lights

4. Using Skyboxes


The Standard Shader

2. Materials

3. Textures

4. A Gentle Introduction to Shaders

5. Using detail textures for extra realism close-up

6. Frame Debugger

Introduction to Human Vision

VR-Human Vision


Group Description: Due October 1

Visual Rendering Systems

o   Essential characteristics of human visual perception

o   Stereoscopic display systems (LCD, CRT, HMD, flat, panoramic, and hemispheric screens, etc.)

o   Detailed analysis of advanced visualization systems

o   New display devices such as real-time auto-stereogram and retinal writing

o   Cinematic display


Assignment 2: Due 13 October

o   Display Systems Continue



Digitizing the Human Body

o   Three-dimensional position sensors (magnetic, ultrasound, photogrammetric, mechanical, and inertial sensors)


VR Term Projects

By Monday, Oct. 28, I would like each team to send me the following information:

o  A project titles

o  The name of each member of the team

o  A short description of the project

o  A diagram of the VR interface functionality

o  An estimated timeline of the execution of the project,

o  A list of the equipment required.

Once I get this, I will meet with each team individually and discuss the logistic of the project.

You can find last year's teams project proposals at Projects.rar


List of Possible Projects

o   Digitizing body motion and forces (DataGlove, CyberGlove, PowerGlove, DHM Dexterous Hand Master, etc.)


Assignment 3: Due 1 November

o   Tracking Continue


o   Review of student projects

List of Projects

Sound Rendering Systems

o   Essential characteristics of human auditory perception

o   Synthesis of 3D sound (convolvotrons, Beachtrons and Acoustetrons, simple 3D sound)

o   Unity 3D Sound Spatializer


Assignment 4: Due 10 November

Haptic Rendering Systems


o   Human requirements for good haptic perception

o   Tactile and force feedback (difference between tactile and force feedback, various tactile feedback systems, haptic rendering, force feedback systems)

o   Combination of tactile and force feedback.



Computing Architectures

  • Graphic requirement of human perception vs. VR graphic engines
  • Underlying architecture of a VR graphic engine (graphic pipeline, graphic cards for PC, etc.)
  • Detail analysis of modern graphics hardware
  • Highly parallel VR graphic engines
  • Distributed virtual reality systems



Modeling for VR


o   Geometric Modeling (geometric primitives, scene hierarchies, constructive geometry, etc.)

o   Cinematic Model (object motion, collision detection, navigation models, motion hierarchies, etc.)

o   Physical Modeling (gravity, collision, deformable model, surface texture, etc.)

o   Behavioral Modeling (Artificial life, responsive model, etc.)

o   Model segmentation (segmentation in cells, LOD, etc.)

o   Modeling real-life from sensors



Modeling for VR Continue


Fall reading week

Week of Nov. 9-13


VR Programming


o   Java 3D

o   Vizard Toolkit

o   Unity 3D

o   MiddleVR



Human Factors in VR and Augmented Reality


Assignment 5: Due 5 December

Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality


Tele-presence and Cinematic VR


Applications of VR and AR


o   Medicine and rehabilitation (surgery, anatomic simulator, remote surgery, hybrid systems)

o   VR games

o   Arts (virtual actors, virtual museum, virtual music, virtual theatre)

o   Virtual product design (CAD display, process simulation, virtual prototyping)

o   Robotic (robot and virtual reality, design of robots, robot programming, supervisory control, the Mars Rover)

o   Teaching systems (military training 'SIMNET', NASA training systems, flight simulators)

o   Virtual teleconferencing systems



Students Presentations and Demos


Starts week of December 9

Final Report


Due no later than December 13

Recommended Reference Books


o  Handbook of Virtual Environments: Design, Implementation, and Applications. 2nd Edition. K. S. Hale, K. M. Stanney, Eds. 2014.

o  3D User Interfaces: Theory and Practice. D. A. Bowman, E. Kruijff, J. J. LaViola, and I. Poupyrev. 2014.

o  Understanding Virtual Reality: Interface, Application, and Design. W. R. Sherman and A. B. Craig. 2012.


Developer References


o  Unity3D Interface Overview

o  Unity3D Manual

o  Oculus Best Practices Guide


Research Articles


o  Stereoscopy and the Human Visual System

o  Optometric and Perceptual Issues with Head-mounted Displays


Other Online Resources


o  Reddit/Oculus

o  A developer's perspective on immersive 3D computer graphics

o  Road to VR

o  Oculus Connect keynotes

o  Blur Busters


Internet Links