Course Syllabus

Reality Computing Studio

Fall 2021  |  Hunt Library, Studio A  |  T-Th  10:10-11:30am
Carnegie Mellon University,  Entertainment Technology Center

Professor: Tom Corbett (
Office Hours: By appointment

Course Description

The term REALITY COMPUTING encompasses a constellation of technologies that focus around capturing information from the real world (laser scanning, photogrammetry), working with spatial data (CAD, physical modeling, simulation), and using that data to interact with and influence the physical world (augmented / virtual reality, projection systems, 3d printing, robotics). Students in this course will work with these various technologies and learn about the principles behind them, and the commonalities and distinctions that lie between them.

This semester the studio will focus on moving data between these various media, first capturing a physical artifact into a digital form, and then manipulating it into different formats for various use cases.  We will explore how to optimize these creations for real-time rendering and analyze how these bridge the divide between “virtual” and “real”.

In Reality Computing Studio, students will:

  • Capture and generate digital recreations of locations and/or objects through spatially computational methods such as photogrammetry. 
  • Refine digital assets and learn optimization methods for real-time rendering and inclusion in interactive virtual environments. 
  • Explore digital spaces.
  • Perform R&D and create prototypes and concepts for spatial experiences

This semester the studio will focus heavily on the virtual representation of design, specifically through real-time render technologies. Students will receive instruction in the generation of these experiences software to capture, manipulate, and display this content and add interactivity to experiences  We will use development processes typically employed in the creative software industry, including rapid prototyping and iterative design.

The coursework for this class will be split into individual and group assignments.  

This is a 12 credit course, as it requires a significant amount of outside-of-class work to complete the assignments.   Please reserve the appropriate amount of time for your classwork and respect the schedules of your teammates.

Course Structure

The class will meet each Tuesday and Thursday from 10:10am – 11:30am, and will consist of a mixture of lectures, discussions, workshops, presentations, and open work sessions for projects.  The schedule will adjust as necessary to ensure the development of skills and knowledge as abilities of individuals and groups are demonstrated.  In other words, the topics covered in this course may be adjusted to meet the skill levels of the enrolled students.

This course is designated as “In-Person Expectation” (IPE) so live attendance is expected, unless otherwise noted or excused.  Due to the ongoing pandemic, some aspects of our class may be delivered through asynchronous or remote content when relevant.  Further adjustments to the course schedule or modality may be required if there is a shift in the University’s COVID posture.

The topics covered in this class (and their order) will be determined through a survey of students’ skillsets and areas of interest.   During the first half of the semester, students will learn to use various software packages.  Students will complete individual assignments to use these methods to generate and produce artifacts.  In the second half of the semester, students will work in small groups (or individually with permission from the instructor) to create projects that respond to a particular challenge or theme.  The expectations and parameters of these assignments will be explained in class, and will also be posted on the course Canvas page.   Students (or student teams) will also be expected to contribute content to a Design Blog that will document and chart their project.

Required Text

There is no required textbook for this course.  Links to suggested and required readings will be posted on the course website.

Technology Requirements

This course will use various software packages to capture, process, and create content.  Students are recommended to bring their own laptops to use in class.  Laptops are also available to check out short-term through IDeATe lending, however there are limited devices that have the relevant software.

This may also use Zoom as a means of communication, especially with project teams or for office hours.  

Written communication will be handled via email, and a distribution list for the class will be established.  

Assignments will use a file sharing application (either Google Drive or Box) in order to submit and archive group and individual projects.  Instructions on submitting will be included in the project descriptions.  Documentation on the class WordPress instance may also be utilized.

Course Policies

For this course it is expected that all interactions, including those with fellow students, should be treated as though this were a real-life work environment.  While this course offers opportunities to experiment with designs and technologies – and to take larger risks than one might in an actual workplace – you are still expected to exhibit the conduct of a professional adult at all times.

Attendance and Participation

Attendance is expected for all class sessions.  (Exception: If you are sick, stay home. Do not infect the rest of us.  Please send a note to the instructor to let them know that you will be out)  Excused absences will be considered on a case-by-case basis. If you know you will be out of town or have a conflicting appointment, please let the instructor know ahead of time via e-mail.  It is your responsibility to communicate and coordinate this absence with your teammates.

If you are unable to attend for an extended period, due to illness or quarantine, please contact the instructor to arrange an alternate plan for course delivery. 

Some class periods will be dedicated to group work time, and it is expected that you attend these, or have a plan in place with your group to meet or coordinate outside of class if you cannot attend.  

This class will also feature regular progress presentations and live critique. Teams will be expected to be in attendance for these sessions.

Class Conduct

  • Be on time and ready when class begins.  Repeated late arrivals will be noted and your grade may be penalized.
  • Be awake, engaged, and participatory.
  • Be respectful of our guests, our staff, and each other.
  • Use of electronic devices is permitted as long as it is relevant to the current class.
  • Be responsible and respectful with your food and beverages.  We share the IDeATe facilities with many departments, please keep them clean.

Team Conduct

  • Be respectful of your teammates.
  • Be honest with your teammates.
  • Do your work.  Meet your deadlines and deliverables.

Assignment Policies

Project parameters and deliverables will be distributed at the beginning of each assignment.  If you have questions about the assignment or deadlines, please ask.

Assignments and project deliverables MUST be submitted by the deadline.  This deadline will be communicated in class, and in the posted assignment.  Late projects and assignments will assume a penalty or may not be accepted at all.

“LAST KNOWN GOOD” POLICY:  Deliverables are expected to function during weekly reviews.  Submitting or displaying broken or unplayable builds may result in a penalty or incomplete grade.  It is recommended that your team adopt and adhere to processes that regularly backup your work. The cornerstone of a solid backup strategy is having a “last known good” policy in place, where a successful and playable build of your assignment is saved as a snapshot, independent of your ongoing development.  Using this policy ensures that you still have something to show in class in the event of something going catastrophically wrong with your current build (which happens way more often than you think).

Students are expected to turn in their own work.  Don’t cheat or plagiarize. Please review CMU’s policy on Academic Integrity (  Materials created by someone else (code, photographics, music, etc) must include proper permission and/or attribution.  Use of code libraries must be approved on a case-by-case basis.

Teams maintain ownership of the intellectual property of their creations in this class.  It is a good practice for teams to agree upon their own IP policy and sign a written version of the agreement, just in case.  CMU retains a non-exclusive royalty-free license to use and demonstrate projects created for this class.

Grading Policy

Students in this course will be graded individually for participation and individual assignments and as a group for team assignments.  Team assignments will be evaluated for both project (the quality of the final product) and process (the quality of effort, organization, and teamwork put forth by the team members).  All team members will receive the same project and process grades, except in cases where an individual’s effort is shown to have greatly mismatched that of the rest of the team.

Exceeds expectations
87%B+GoodMeets expectations
Meets requirements, but not expectations
67%D+UnsatisfactoryBelow requirements and expectations

IDeATe Common Learning Goals

  • Demonstrate an appreciation for and ability to participate in critique of one’s own work and the work of others
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the role of reflection in learning and designing (begin to become a reflective practitioner)
  • Demonstrate an ability to articulate the story (visually, orally, verbally, aurally …) of one’s own work and one’s own learning
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the history, cultural context and social implications of X
  • Demonstrate the ability to work in a multidisciplinary environment
  • Information about IDeATe


Most IDeATe facilities are located in Hunt Library. Lending, Physical Computing Lab, Media Lab, the laser cutters, 3D printers, woodshop, and CNC router are on the lower level. Some of the equipment requires special training which you will receive either in the class that requires it or in a micro course. If you are unsure of how to operate any of the equipment or are unsure how to use the equipment safely and effectively, please send email to

IDeATe Lending

Once you are enrolled in an IDeATe course, you will have access to IDeATe Lending. You will maintain your access through the rest of your time at Carnegie Mellon. You must present your CMU ID each time you borrow an item. You will also be able to purchase a limited number of consumable items (such as plywood and acrylic) for projects. 

Please visit for more detailed information on available resources, to review the IDeATe Lending Borrower Policy, and to find hours of operation.

Due to the pandemic there may be some limitations or restrictions to lending and facility access.  You can find the latest details here: 

IDeATe advising

If you have questions or need advice about IDeATe minors or courses, please get in touch with Kelly Delaney, the Assistant Director of IDeATe. Her office is in Hunt 246 and her email is

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities 

If you have a disability and are registered with the Office of Disability Resources, I encourage you to use their online system to notify me of your accommodations and discuss your needs with me as early in the semester as possible. I will work with you to ensure that accommodations are provided as appropriate. If you suspect that you may have a disability and would benefit from accommodations but are not yet registered with the Office of Disability Resources, I encourage you to contact them at

Statement of Support for Student’s Health & Well-Being

Take care of yourself. Do your best to maintain a healthy lifestyle this semester by eating well, exercising, avoiding drugs and alcohol, getting enough sleep and taking some time to relax. This will help you achieve your goals and cope with stress.

If you or anyone you know experiences any academic stress, difficult life events, or feelings like anxiety or depression, we strongly encourage you to seek support. Counseling and Psychological Services (CaPS) is here to help: call 412-268-2922 and visit 

Consider reaching out to a friend, faculty or family member you trust for help getting connected to the support that can help.

If you have questions about this or your coursework, please let me know. Thank you, and have a great semester.