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Christina Vasilakis

M.F.A. Research
M.F.A. Thesis: Welcome to the House of the Future
Design of Educational Applications in Virtual Reality
NICE Collaborative Environment
Studying Fine Art: "Las Meninas" by Velazquez
User Centered HCI Design/M.S. Topic
Argonne National Labs interface design using a
user task centered approach
Early studies of interface toolkits in VR
Collaborative Publications

Master of Fine Arts Thesis Research

I completed the requirements for my Master of Fine Arts degree in Electronic Visualization in May, 1995 with the presentation of CASA: Computer Augmentation for Smart Architectonics, the simulation of "smart house" technology in virtual environments. In addition, this presentation is the initial of research involving collaborative engagement of multiple participants in one virtual environment. This project involved the combination of a number of various software applications and modelling packages including Softimage, VRML-ready Open Inventor Models, and Open GL and homegrown software to implement smart house intelligent agents, CAVE to CAVE interaction in CASA, voice and handwriting recognition contributed by the talents of Jason Leigh and Craig Barnes. My M.F.A. Thesis, Welcome to the House of the Future, is available online.

Design of Educational Applications in Virtual Reality
It has been my pleasure to participate in groups devoted to the development of educational environments using multi-media in conjunction with virtual reality. The following described my most current involvemnt in this research.

NICE Collaborative Environment

The NICE (Narrative Interactive Constructivist/Collaborative Environments) group is the product of collaboration between students and faculty of the Interactive Computing Environments Lab and the Electronic Visualization Lab at the University of Illinois at Chicago. We are mainly concerned with the development of children's learning environments that are persistent and encourage collaboration between local and remote users within the same virtual environment. Currently, the environment consists of an island where users are free to roam and explore the topology, see their reflections in the ocean, and learn about simple horticultural topics by the upkeep of a garden. The environment has been presented at a number of public gatherings such as SIGGRAPH '96 and Thinkquest ceremony in Washington D.C.

M.Roussos, A. Johnson, J. Leigh, C. Vasilakis, T. Moher, "Constructing Collaborative Stories Within Virtual Learning Landscapes." European Conference on A.I. in Education, 1996. describes our work in more detail.

Studying Fine Art: "Las Meninas", by Diego Velazquez

This project is ongoing research which involved the talents of a multi-disciplinary group that includes artists, computer programmers and a filmmaker. Using virtual reality and multi-media, the painting, "Las Meninas", by Diego Velazquez is recreated for the exploration of children in order to gain a better understanding of the structure and composition of the painting. In addition, the painting becomes an actual architectural environment to be explored by participants and the painting's subjects become 3D avatars that lead the viewer through the environment and indicate points of interest that Velazquez explores in his painting. Such interests include the exploration of multiple of perspective of the mirror, the addition paintings on the walls and the painting that Velazquez, himself, paints within the painting.

User Centered Interface Design
My research interests revolve around the involvement of the user and the user's task models in the design of a graphical user interface. I am currently applying this technique in the research described below for interface design at Argonne National Labs with some success. This ongoing pursuit will be the subject of my Master of Science in Computer Science degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago, Electronic Visualization lab.

Argonne National Labs interface design

For the past two years, I have been working on the interface that will drive the beamline software for use at Argonne's Structural Biology Center's beamlines, part of the Advanced Photon Source project. This research has been conducted using a user centered approach to understand the needs of the scientists for this interface. The web has been used to gather design feedback from the users who are located throughout the world. This survey is located at

Development of a Graphical User Interface for Beamline Control describes the project thus far.

My Early Studies of Interface Development in VR
C. A. Vasilakis. User Studies for Toolkit Development in Virtual Reality, Collected Papers of the Sixth Workshop of the Psychology of Programming Interest Group, Open University, Milton Keynes, England, January 6-8, 1994.
This paper was the first user study conducted on interface design in the CAVE virtual environment in the Electronic Visualization Lab. I presented the research and results at the Psychology of Programmers Interest Group in Milton Keynes, England. It is available if you email me at

Collaborative Publications

J. Leigh, A. E. Johnson, C. A. Vasilakis, T. A. DeFanti. Multi-perspective Collaborative Design in Persistent Networked Virtual Environments, VRAIS'96, March 1996.
My MFA research, conducted with Jason Leigh, on the simulation of "smart house" technology using virtual reality and collaborative virtual environments evolved into the CALVIN environment, research which Jason is continuing and expanding, and which eventually lead to the development of the NICE environment described above.

J. Leigh, C. A. Vasilakis, T. A. DeFanti, et al. Virtual Reality in Computational Neuroscience, Proceedings of the Conference on Applications of Virtual Reality, ed: R. Earnshaw, British Computer Society Display Group, Leeds, England, June 6 - 10 1994.
This paper describes the development of "V", a heuristically based, virtual reality software interface. The idea is to provide a set of VR software tools that reduce the development time for the programmer by asking the computer to decide the best placement and interaction of tools in a virtual environment, based on a set of rules.

C. Cruz-Neira, C. Vasilakis, J. Leigh , C. Barnes et al. Scientists in Wonderland: A Report on Visualization Applications in the CAVE Virtual Reality Environment, Proceedings of IEEE 1993 Symposium on Research Frontiers in Virtual Reality, pp. 59-65, Oct 1993.

Brown, Maxine, Looking at Visualization: Applications for the Rest of Us," BYTE Magazine, April '93, pp. 126-127.

Image of cholera toxin published in article. This molecule was imaged using Display molecular imaging software I wrote for Ed Westbrook at Argonne National Labs. The software reads in a data file which results from xray crystallographic analysis of a protein crystal.