sandbox (n): (also, 'sandbox, the') Common term for the R&D department at many software and computer companies (where hackers in commercial environments are likely to be found). Half-derisive, but reflects the truth that research is a form of creative play.
— From "The New Hacker's Dictionary" (3rd edition) by Eric S. Raymond
The Virtual Environment Software Sandbox (VESS) is a suite of libraries developed by the University of Central Florida's Institute for Simulation and Training. It is based on lessons learned from years of virtual environment research and is used to create the software for various virtual reality research applications at UCF/IST.
The goal of VESS is to provide an application base that is useful and functional using today's hardware and graphics and audio libraries, extensible to support future hardware and software libraries, and easily portable to multiple platforms, graphics and audio systems, and application programming interfaces (API's).
VESS is designed to simplify and expedite the development of applications where virtual environments are required. It does this by providing a simple interface into the underlying graphics API while integrating support for various input devices, such as joysticks and motion tracking systems, and display devices, such as head-mounted displays and shutter glasses. Additionally, VESS provides behaviors and motion models to allow the user to manipulate his or her viewpoint as well as control and interact with objects in the virtual environment. The user's viewpoint can be independent or attached to any transformable object in the scene. Also, VESS provides a seamless audio API that integrates directly into the VESS scene graph, giving developers the ability to easily add sound to the environment (including moving objects). Other useful routines such as collision detection and terrain following are also provided.
VESS provides a high-level library allowing complex virtual entities (avatars), complete with geometry and motion/articulation models, to be generated with a few simple lines of code. This is useful for dynamic networked virtual environments, which may involve many users and/or computer-generated forces at once. VESS provides the developer with the ability to handle avatars at a high level and leave the details of movement, articulations, and behaviors to the system.
VESS is also designed for easy portability. Its multi-layered architecture allows the developer to focus on the details of the application, without worrying about the specifics of the graphics API or hardware interfaces. Thus, applications built using the VESS libraries will be easily portable to any other platform. Currently, VESS runs on Linux and Windows platforms using the Open Scene Graph API.
To download VESS, simply go to the download area. It is free and is released under the Mozilla Public License.