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Video and computer games aim to give players a compelling interactive experience. Components that help shape this experience include navigation and action through the game world, real-time responsiveness, and a carefully crafted storyline. Many games give players explicit control as to the high-level outcome of the experience. Navigation and action allow players to move through the environment and interact with the virtual world.
Here we analyze two of our own research projects intended for use in design evaluation and product marketing applications and reflect on the game-like experiences they provide. The first is Boom Chameleon, which incorporates intuitive, real-time navigation with rich interaction during the review of virtual models. The second is StyleCam, which allows user exploration of pre-authored interactive experiences for virtual marketing and product advertising. While both involve inspection of virtual 3D objects, each employs different approaches to giving users an engaging experience.
While advances in computing have empowered users to design and interact with objects in virtual three-dimensional space, little effort has been made to improve or facilitate interaction with the viewpoint. Once we begin to consider this problem, we find that it effectively spans a huge problem domain with many special cases. It touches on many of the fundamental difficulties in 3D interaction: being inside an object vs. being outside, how close is the viewpoint to the object, what is the user looking at and/or is interested in, egocentric vs. exocentric thinking, parallel vs. perspective viewing projections, multiscale and level-of-detail issues, what kind of data is being examined (abstract, incomplete, photoreal, engineering, CAD, entertainment, medical, simulation, etc.), and what is the user task (authoring, inspecting, etc.). Additional technical issues include correct handling of the clipping planes and floating-point precision problems. To help understand and address some of these issues, we have an ongoing research program to improve the state-of-the-art in 3D navigation.