Russell Turner, Principal Investigator
Enrico Gobbetti, Research Associate

Computer Science Department
University of Maryland Baltimore County
5401 Wilkens Avenue
Baltimore, MD 21228-5398 USA


E-mail: {turner|gobbetti}
Phone : +1 410 455 3965
Fax : +1 410 455 3969


Russell Turner's home page :

Enrico Gobbetti's home page:

Project's home page :


Virtual environments.


User Interface Design, 3D Interaction, 3D Widgets, 3D Virtual Tools, Object-Oriented Graphics.


Although much of the current focus in virtual environment research is on hardware, it is ultimately the software that will determine the success of virtual environment applications. One important new area of virtual environment software research is in 3D interaction: how should such applications behave interactively and how should this behavior be constructed in software? Since user input is relatively low-bandwidth and future virtual environments will have extremely high performance processors, solutions to these problems will have enormous amounts of processing power to draw upon. Recently, several developments have emerged in various fields which hold great promise for advancing 3D interaction research. Examples are: object-oriented frameworks which allow developers to selectively enhance existing prototype applications, incremental hierarchical constraint solvers which allow constraints to be declared between user-interface components, automatic recognition of hand gestures, inverse kinematics algorithms for manipulation of kinematic chains, and physically-based models which simulate the mechanical behavior of real rigid or deformable objects. Because of the complexity of developing 3D interaction software, reusable software libraries are clearly needed. The purpose of this research project is to investigate what form of software architecture a modern, high-level 3D interaction toolkit should take, build an implementation of one, and make a documented version publicly available for researchers and developers of virtual environment applications.


The conception of this project is based on several years of experience designing and building highly interactive 3D user interface toolkits and systems at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne. Below is the list of the most relevant papers describing our previous systems.

Balaguer JF, Gobbetti E (1995) Supporting Interactive Animation Using Multi-way Constraints. Proceedings EUROGRAPHICS Workshop on Programming Paradigms in Computer Graphics. Maastricht, The Netherlands.

Gobbetti E, Balaguer JF (1995) An Integrated Environment to Visually Construct 3D Animations. Proceedings ACM SIGGRAPH, Los Angeles, CA, USA.

Balaguer JF, Gobbetti E (1995) Sketching 3D Animations. Proceedings EUROGRAPHICS, Maastricht, the Netherlands.

Turner R, Thalmann D, (1993) The Elastic Surface Layer Model for Animated Character Construction. Proceedings Computer Graphics International.

Gobbetti E, Balaguer JF (1993) VB2: A Framework for Interaction in Synthetic Worlds. Proceedings ACM User Interface Software and Technology: 167-178.

Gobbetti E, Balaguer JF, Mangili A, Turner R (1993) Building an Interactive 3D Animation System. In Meyer B, Nerson JM (Ed.) Object-Oriented Applications. Prentice-Hall: 211-242.

Turner R, Gobbetti E, Balaguer JF, Mangili A (1993) An Interactive 3D Graphics Class Library in Eiffel. Proceedings EUROGRAPHICS Workshop on Object-Oriented Graphics, Champery, Switzerland.

Turner R, Balaguer JF, Gobbetti E, Thalmann D (1991) Physically-based Interactive Camera Motion Control Using 3D Input Devices. Proceedings Computer Graphics International: 135-145.

Turner R, Gobbetti E, Balaguer JF, Mangili A, Thalmann D, Magnenat-Thalmann N (1990) An Object-oriented Methodology with Dynamic Variables for Animation and Scientific Visualization. Proceedings Computer Graphics International: 317-328.


Interactive computer graphics technology is undergoing rapid progress, and there is currently much exciting research activity in various aspects of this field. As the quality and performance of multi-dimensional input devices, head-mounted displays, 3D graphics engines and high-performance CPUs improves at a fast pace, the need for attendant software technology which can fully realize the potential of this hardware becomes more acute.

Modern 3D graphics systems allow a rapidly growing community of users to create and manipulate increasingly sophisticated worlds. Despite their inherent three-dimensionality, these systems are still largely controlled by 2D WIMP user interfaces. The difficulties associated with achieving the key goal of immersion has led the research in virtual environments to concentrate far more on the development of new input and display devices than on higher-level techniques for 3D interaction. It is not until recently that interaction with synthetic worlds has tried to go beyond straightforward interpretation of physical device data. However, if 3D interactive applications are to progress beyond simple walk-through visualizations or 3D versions of hyper-media interfaces, new 3D interaction metaphors and the appropriate software architectures with which to implement them must be discovered. Although some promising work has begun to emerge in this new research area, in many ways, the development of virtual environment technology in the 90's still resembles that of interactive bit-mapped graphics workstations in the 70's: the hardware capability is there, but the appropriate interaction metaphors and software architectures are not.

Discovering useful interaction techniques and metaphors requires considerable experimentation, usability testing, and trial and error. 3D user interface designers are faced with systems whose structure and behavior are generally more complex than in standard 2D applications, and have to deal with a design space for interaction tools and techniques that is larger and mostly unexplored. A need clearly exists for tools that allow developers to rapidly prototype and test novel 3D interaction metaphors.


The investigation of 3D interaction technology has been emerging only recently as a well identified area of computer graphics. The ACM SIGGRAPH Symposium on Interactive 3D Graphics is the only conference completely focused on 3D interaction. The yearly conferences ACM SIGGRAPH, ACM SIGCHI, ACM UIST, and IEEE VRST are major events that usually have sessions on 3D interaction. There is currently no comprehensive survey or introductory text on the area. Below are a few important papers on software architectures for 3D interaction.

Zeltzer D, Pieper S, Sturman DJ (1989) An Integrated Graphical Simulation Platform. Proceedings Graphics Interface: 266-274.

Zeleznik RC, Conner DB, Wloka M, Aliaga D, Huang N, Hubbard PM, Knep B, Kaufman H, Hughes JF, van Dam A (1991) An Object Oriented Framework for the Integration of Interactive Animation Techniques. Proceedings SIGGRAPH: 105-112.

Conner DB, Snibbe SS, Herndon, KP, Robbins, DC, Zeleznik RC, van Dam A (1992) Three-dimensional Widgets. Proceedings ACM SIGGRAPH Symposium on Interactive 3D Graphics: 183-188.

Gleicher M (1992) Integrating Constraints and Direct Manipulation. Proceedings ACM User Interface Software and Technology: 171-174.

Strauss PS, Carey R (1992) An Object-Oriented 3D Graphics Toolkit. Proceedings ACM SIGGRAPH: 341-349.

Gobbetti E, Balaguer JF (1993) VB2: A Framework for Interaction in Synthetic Worlds. Proceedings ACM User Interface Software and Technology: 167-178.

Pausch R, Conway M, DeLine R, Gossweiler R, Miale S (1993) Alice and DIVER: A Software Architecture for Building Virtual Environments. Proceedings InterCHI.

Robertson GG, Card SK, Mackinlay JD (1993) Information Visualization Using 3D Interactive Animation. Communications of the ACM 36(4).

Elliot C, Schechter G, Yeung R, Abi-Ezzi S (1994) TBAG: A High Level Framework for Interactive, Animated 3D Graphics Applications. Proceedings ACM SIGGRAPH: 421-434.

Herndon KP, van Dam A and Gleicher M (1994) Workshop report: The Challenges of 3D Interaction. ACM SIGCHI Bulletin, October.

Stevens MP, Zeleznik RC, Hughes JF (1994) An Architecture for an Extensible 3D Interface Toolkit. Proceedings ACM User Interface Software and Technology.

Gobbetti E, Balaguer JF (1995) An Integrated Environment to Visually Construct 3D Animations. Proceedings ACM SIGGRAPH.


Other Communication Modalities, Usability and User-Centered Design.