CS340V: Networked Systems for Virtual Worlds

Fall Quarter, 2008
TR 12:50-2:05
Gates 260
Instructor: Philip Levis
  • Office hours: TR 3-4pm, Gates 358, or by appointment
  • TA: Ewen Cheslack-Postava

    CS340V is a research course on networked systems for virtual worlds. Virtual worlds are networked, simulated environments that bring geographically-diverse users together. They simulate physical interaction in three-dimensional spaces and decouple such interaction from geographic constraints. People participate in virtual worlds through their avatars, manipulating objects in the virtual world and interacting with other users. The virtual and physical (real) worlds may be coupled; objects in the virtual world can be linked to and can cause action in the physical world, while interfaces and sensors in the real world can control objects or provide data in the virtual world.

    For all their benefits and popularity, today's virtual worlds are characterized by centralized control and administration. All physical resources and administrative controls are managed by a single entity, e.g. Blizzard for World of Warcraft or Linden Labs for Second Life. No interaction is possible between users in these walled garden virtual worlds, limiting the ``network effect'' of such technologies, and innovation is constrained by the system's central operators.

    CS340V focuses on researching the networked systems that underlie virtual worlds. As a large, shared experience, virtual world systems must deal with many of the hardest problems in system design, including consistency, fault tolerance, load balancing, distribution, and security. The class focus is a research project based on a system implementation, with weekly class meetings to discuss a selection of relevant papers.