sealPurdue News

December 1998

Virtual campus visits make real life easier

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- College campuses are notoriously difficult for visitors to navigate -- public parking is limited, one-way streets abound, and buildings are frequently known by several different names.

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But a technical graphics professor in the School of Technology at Purdue University has found a way to take some of the trepidation out of navigating the school's West Lafayette campus. Using a software program that until recently has been applied almost exclusively to creating animated computer games, James Mohler has designed a two-dimensional, interactive map that allows a "virtual visit" by way of the World Wide Web.

While the software is not new, Mohler says Purdue is the first university in the country to use it in this manner.

"One of the difficulties I had in developing the virtual campus map was the lack of information on how to build it," Mohler explains. "The city of Bangkok in Thailand is the only other entity I could find that was applying the technology this way."

Mohler says the Macromedia Shockwave software produces something far more interesting and useful than the typical static street map you see on the Internet.

"Not only can you zoom in on a particular area of the campus, but we've set it up so that all of the buildings 'pop-up' when touched by the mouse pointer," Mohler explains. "Then you can click on the building to see a picture of it and learn more about what's housed there."

Web surfers also can click on various landmarks and points of interest that have been photographed in Quicktime video and then pan through a 360-degree view of the surrounding area.

"We're adding things to it all the time," Mohler says. "Right now you can see what it would look like to stand in the center of the football stadium or the basketball arena."

But perhaps the most useful feature is the building finder, which provides a complete list of campus facilities on a drop-down menu and then shows the user the precise location on campus.

The virtual map requires both Macromedia Shockwave and Apple Quicktime software, which are downloadable from the Web.

Source: James Mohler, (765) 494-9089; e-mail,

Writer: Sharon Bowker, (765) 494-2077; e-mail,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; e-mail,

James Mohler, an assistant professor of technical graphics in the Purdue School of Technology, used a software program for designing computer games to create a Web site that provides a "virtual visit" to the university's West Lafayette campus. (Purdue News Service Photo by David Umberger)
Color photo, electronic transmission, and Web and ftp download available. Photo ID: Mohler.virtualvisit
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