Sound within the virtual environment is often considered to be secondary to the graphics. In a typical scenario, either audio cues are locally associated with specific 3D objects or a general aural ambiance is supplied in order to alleviate the sterility of an artificial experience. This paper discusses a completely different approach, in which cues are extracted from live or recorded music in order to create geometry and control object behaviors within a computer- generated environment. Advanced texturing techniques used to generate complex stereoscopic images are also discussed. By analyzing music for standard audio characteristics such as rhythm and frequency, information is extracted and repackaged for processing. With the Soundsculpt Toolkit, this data is mapped onto individual objects within the virtual environment, along with one or more predetermined behaviors. Mapping decisions are implemented with a user definable schedule and are based on the aesthetic requirements of directors and designers. This provides for visually active, immersive environments in which virtual objects behave in real-time correlation with the music. The resulting music-driven virtual reality opens up several possibilities for new types of artistic and entertainment experiences, such as fully immersive 3D `music videos' and interactive landscapes for live performance.
While virtual environment systems are typically thought to consist of a headmounted display and a flex-sensing glove, alternative peripheral devices are beginning to be developed in response to application requirements. Three such alternatives are discussed: fingertip sensing gloves, fixed stereoscopic viewers and counterbalanced headmounted displays. A subset of commercial examples that highlight each alternative is presented, as well as a brief discussion of interesting engineering and implementation issues.