High-schoolers and others hoping to attend MIT can now go on a campus tour while sitting in front of their computers.
The MIT Virtual Tour at http://web.mit.edu/vrtour/, which went on line this week and is linked to the MIT home page, lets users choose from four campus "neighborhoods" (West Campus, Infinite Corridor, East Campus and Kendall Square). Yellow dots on maps show places of interest whose names pop up when the cursor passes over them. Among the highlights of the East Campus portion are the East Campus dorm complex, the Parsons Lab, the Lewis Music Library and a campus view from the top of Building 54.
When a user clicks on a yellow dot, a picture and informational text and links appear. Better yet, they can also see two types of moving images (QuickTime full-motion video and VR panoramas) of many of the sites.
For example, among the Infinite Corridor offerings are a Strobe Alley video of Harold "Doc" Edgerton and the splashing milk drop he made famous, and a VR tour of the Stella Room. Viewers can pan around artist Frank Stella's colorful Loohooloo painting covering three walls of the room, and zoom in and out on details of interest. (For more information on viewing the images and a list of frequently asked questions, see the site's "how to tour" link.)
Deborah Levinson, a consultant with Campus Wide Information Systems (CWIS), is the Virtual Tour project leader. The two-year effort brought together staff from the Admissions Office, the Publishing Services Bureau and Information Systems, including CWIS team leader Suzana Lisanti and student programmers. Video Productions provided some of the video and VR material as well.
The Virtual Tour is designed to accommodate expansion; many more labs, departments and living groups will be continually added as images are shot.
Some other colleges and universities have virtual tours, but MIT is one of the only tours with VR and full-motion video rather than simply photos. "I think ours is about the nicest," Ms. Levinson said.
A version of this article appeared in the April 7, 1999 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 43, Number 25).