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Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences

Computer Science Students Bring a Classic to Life in Virtual Reality

11/12/16
CS Student with VR Goggles
photo credit: Liam Weir

A unique digital humanities project known as Joycestick is utilizing a series of analytical and creative tools that will allow James Joyce enthusiasts to explore the author’s monumental tome, Ulysses.

Under the leadership of Joyce scholar and Boston College English Department Associate Professor of the Practice Joseph Nugent, “a diversely talented group of students behind JoyceStick are … ushering a classic into the age of virtual reality.” Students from Boston College, Northeastern University, and the Berklee College of Music are working alongside graduate students, professionals and Prof. Nugent to develop teams that work on sound, 3D modeling, text and visualizations, storyboarding, mapping and Geographic Information Systems, among other specialties.

Boston College Computer Science students Evan Otero, Drew Hoo, Emaad Ali, and Ryan Reede comprise the Virtual Reality (VR) development team, along with a Northeastern student, Matt Harty.

“VR is somewhat the ‘wild west,’” remarks Ryan Reede. “Although we can focus on writing code that handles gameplay and interaction instead of the complex graphics algorithms, there are a lot of bugs still in beta associated with VR since the medium is so new. This means that a lot of the work we do includes figuring out what code from open-source VR plug-ins does, then extending or modifying it to make it work better with our environment.”

Reede and his associates have developed a game where one can explore the different levels of a very accurate representation of the Martello Tower in Sandycove, Dublin--where Joyce lived for several years while writing Ulysses, and where the first two chapters of Ulysses take place. “It’s accurate to within 2 millimeters based on a laser scan,” Reede adds.

The VR development team uses Object-Oriented C# for their coding. “All of us agree that taking [the course] with [CS Department Associate Professor Ed] Sciore has been tremendously valuable as far as organizing and maintaining the code that powers the game.”

According to Joycestick’s Professor Nugent, the Joycestick project began last April as a proof-of-concept proposal. “To my delight, it’s proceeded further down the path than I would have imagined. Our horizons continue to expand.”

Nugent has high praise for Reede and the other students involved with the Joycestick project. “It has been such a delight working with them. Their level of commitment has been astonishing.”

To obtain more information about Project Joycestick, visit <http://joycestick.bc.edu/about/>.