This text does not pertain to any new research in the field of virtual reality or virtual environments. Instead, it is meant to be a modern introduction (post VRML) to students new to VR on what building blocks are required to produce a virtual reality system. I review the book in the context of its table of contents:
Chapter 1 "Introduction: Virtual Reality in a Nutshell" is just a broad overview of the field and of this book. It discusses the goals and applications of VR, and also discusses what it considers to be the two pillars of VR: presence and 3D multimodal interaction.
Chapter 2 "Requirements Engineering and Storyboarding" discusses VR from the standpoint of a concrete example: a ship simulator design.
Chapter 3 "Object and Scene Modeling" discusses object modeling, scene construction, object placement, multiple frames of reference, re-expressing coordinate systems, and both functional and behavioral modeling. All of this is done from the standpoint of the ship simulator design that was introduced in chapter two. There is quite a bit about graphics concepts in this chapter.
Chapter 4 "Putting it All Together" pulls together the concepts from chapters 2 and 3 into a system design philosophy, again from the standpoint of the concrete example of the ship simulator design.
Chapter 5 "Performance Estimation and System Tuning" is somewhat mislabeled in my opinion. This chapter discusses some advanced graphics concepts such as tuning with level-of-detail models, presence and special effects, and use of images and texturing.
Chapter 6 "Output Display" is about human optical perception as well as available display hardware. First the human visual system is briefly discussed along with human depth perception and stereoscopy. Next visual display systems are discussed along with haptics - the science of applying touch sensation and control to interaction with computer applications.
Chapter 7 "Sensors and Input Processing" discusses trackers, event generators, and sensor errors and calibration.
Chapter 8 "3D Multimodal Interaction Design" is about fusing symbolic and statistical information from a set of 3D gesture, spoken language, and referential agents. In particular, a structured approach is presented, along with ideas on interfacing, and finally some case studies. Among the case studies are the previously mentioned ship simulator along with immersive authoring, tabletop computing, menu selection and invocation, and whole-body interaction.
Next, there are two short chapters on simulation.
Chapter 9 discusses the basics of collision detection, starting with collision detection of line segments, then moving on to collision among polygonal models, building a bounding volume, and finally collision among bounding volumes.
Chapter 10 introduces physics based motion and collision response. Among the topics mentioned are center of gravity, moment of inertia, linear and rotational kinematics, laws of motion, dynamics, collision response, and deformation. There are quite a few equations shown in this chapter, and although this is just meant as an introduction the material is quite useful.
Chapter 11 "Virtual Characters" is the final chapter and touches on a rather advanced subject. The form of such a character, motion control, and inverse and forward kinematics of such a character are discussed.
Although this is a short book - roughly 230 pages total - it is very useful in that it does not wander through its topics in an academic way, but takes a systems engineering and mathematical approach to building virtual worlds. The use of the ship simulator is very enlightening and binds the book together into a very cohesive and useful volume. The block diagrams and pseudocode are also very helpful. You are going to need other books to build a complete virtual world, but this is an outstanding modern outline of everything that you need to consider. I highly recommend this book as an introductory text to any student wishing to learn the practical issues behind building a virtual reality system.