Fall 2020 - IAT 445 D100

Immersive Environments (3)

Class Number: 7832

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Fr 2:30 PM – 4:20 PM

  • Prerequisites:

    Completion of 60 units, including IAT 343.



Introduces advanced 3D computer animation and virtual world building techniques. Integrates hands-on fundamentals with design praxis and theoretical and research concerns. Fundamentals are complemented with examples from current research and design praxis. The studio aspect of the course will include assignments focusing on specific animation and behaviour modeling techniques and a team-based design project.


In this project-based course, you will use an immersion framework to design, create, and evaluate immersive virtual environments and the interaction between the user and the virtual environment. To do this, we will combine hands-on fundamentals with interaction, animation, and immersive virtual reality design and theoretical and research concerns. Your project will serve to both motivate and implement/showcase these aspects. The course will culminate in a final interactive project showcase and project pitch (oral/video) of your team project. 

What’s in it for you?

In a nutshell: you’ll learn how to design, build, and iteratively refine a cool immersive and interactive virtual environment that should blow the user away. To do this, you will use the popular Unity 3D game engine and guidance from an immersion framework. You will most likely be implementing this on a head-mounted display such as the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive so you’ll be able to showcase it wherever you go – including your next job interview and your next party. Combining a public project showcase with an executive summary and a final project video can further improve your resume/portfolio and marketability.

Anyone visiting one of SFU’s campuses is asked to wear a non-medical mask in all indoor public areas. Public areas include building entryways and atriums, hallways, stairwells, washrooms and study areas.  Proper mask use procedures: https://www.worksafebc.com/en/resources/health-safety/posters/help-prevent-spread-covid-19-how-to-use-mask?lang=en


Learning goals and desired learning outcomes

In this course, you will learn and be prepared to:

  1. Examine the history and conceptual frameworks surrounding “immersion” and “immersiveness” and what this means for digital immersive environments and their users.
  2. Apply a conceptual framework in relation to your own immersive project/interface and use it to critique immersive projects like yours.
  3. Demonstrate moderate proficiency using appropriate software (currently: Unity 3D) to design and build interactive (including user interaction and animation) immersive 3D virtual environments and display them on off-the-shelf computational devices/displays.
  4. Engage in a small team, to apply an agile and iterative interaction design process to define project goals and processes, and then iteratively design, build, evaluate and refine an immersive environment and the user’s interaction with it.

What projects are feasible?

While students have considerable freedom in choosing their team projects, there are a few guidelines and restrictions

  • They have to be interactive (including user interaction, smooth user locomotion, and animation) and immersive and in 3D. That is, you’ll be designing and building a 3D virtual reality experience in Unity3D and display it immersively using a head-mounted display.
  • No killing/torture/violent/combat games or pornography. Such topics have been overdone in the past, and our goal is to encourage and incentivize innovation and exploration of new ideas. Student teams are encouraged to push the medium hard and challenge viewers to rethink common theoretical, technical or cultural assumptions.
  • Address this semester’s Design Challenge  (announced and discussed at the beginning of the course)


  • Smaller assignments including short weekly online warm-up (JiTT) assignments, in-class mini-quizzes, Unity Assignment 1, and the mandatory entrance and exit surveys, as well as participation. 40%
  • Final Team Project (including showcase/demo, poster, executive summary and video) 40%
  • Unity Team Assignments 2 & 3 5%
  • Midterm practical test: Unity 3D 15%


Final showcases

Project showcase (in Mezzanine typically, or online when physical gatherings aren't allowed) (mandatory & graded): time TBD, likely at the end of the first exam week.

Video Showcase (mandatory & graded): time TBD, likely in the second exam week, during the original lecture time slot


Regular attendance and active, supportive participation in class and team activities is necessary to pass; doing otherwise could result in point reductions and in extreme cases failure to pass the course. Failure to contribute sufficiently to in-class activities, individual and team assignments, failure to responsibly do your part of the teamwork, or failure to reliably attend and contribute in team meetings can result in additional point reductions beyond the team evaluation. Mandatory peer evaluations will also take place for group assignments; the results of these peer reviews can affect your grade.
To be eligible for full marks in the major assignments, you must complete the corresponding weekly in-class activities. Although these may not be formally marked, completion of these activities is a prerequisite for the corresponding major assignments, and failure to complete them appropriately could result in overall point reduction.

Teaching/learning activities include:

•    Interactive lecturing and demonstrations
•    Flipped-classroom activities: e.g., students are asked to watch online tutorials & do readings at home so they can come to class prepared to do a short quiz, discuss and apply the material
•    Tutorial sessions
•    A team project made up of several team assignments/presentations that culminate in a final group project report/presentation and project video
•    Group discussions (in-class and online chat- and discussing forums)
•    Short in-class writing and other activities
•    Weekly reading and short writing assignments
•    Several short student team presentations
•    Peer feedback and evaluations


Recommended prerequisites:

This course will be a chance for you to apply and bring together many of the skills you acquired in earlier courses. As IAT 445 involves creating a short team project video, some background in planning, shooting, and editing videos would be advantageous. Having taken game design courses will also be advantageous (e.g., IAT 167: Digital Games; IAT 312: Foundations of Game Design; IAT 410: Advanced Game Design).
This course will provide an excellent opportunity to utilize and improve upon skills cultivated in other SIAT courses, including but not limited to: 3D modeling, animation, programming, rapid prototyping, iterative design, agile development, effective user testing to improve your projects, human perception and cognition, and how to apply it to your project; image editing and sound design, sketching and storyboarding, structured ideation/brainstorming approaches such as affinity diagramming, effective teamwork, effective studying, professional writing and presentation skills, pitching your project professionally, critiquing projects, incorporating critique to improve your own project, and using an iterative planning, drafting and revision process throughout your projects.



Online software tutorials such as LinkedIn Learning (formerly Lynda.com). (in case SFU access should be limited or expire, you might have to obtain your own access)

Jerald, J. (2016). The VR Book: Human-Centered Design for Virtual Reality. New York, NY, USA: Association for Computing Machinery and Morgan & Claypool.  doi: 10.1145/2792790 (available online through SFU library)
ISBN: 978-1-97000-112-9


Supplementary readings will be announced as needed. Reference readings will be added to the course website as needed.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html


Teaching at SFU in fall 2020 will be conducted primarily through remote methods. There will be in-person course components in a few exceptional cases where this is fundamental to the educational goals of the course. Such course components will be clearly identified at registration, as will course components that will be “live” (synchronous) vs. at your own pace (asynchronous). Enrollment acknowledges that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes. To ensure you can access all course materials, we recommend you have access to a computer with a microphone and camera, and the internet. In some cases your instructor may use Zoom or other means requiring a camera and microphone to invigilate exams. If proctoring software will be used, this will be confirmed in the first week of class.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need class or exam accommodations, including in the current context of remote learning, are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112).