(Posted May 22, 2001)

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- In a few months, Juniata College will be able to host an interactive walking tour through a virtual version of its campus as part of an agreement between the college, a local digital media company, and Adobe Software, the San Jose-based desktop software company that makes Illustrator and Photoshop.

Juniata has been chosen as one of the "beta" test subjects for Adobe's "Atmosphere" software package, a new product that allows professional Web designers to create virtual tours based on real-life buildings and spaces. "Beta" tests are commonly used in the computer industry, primarily as trials in which certain clients are asked to thoroughly test a software product before the package is released to the public.

Once Juniata's virtual tour project is completed, Adobe will feature a link to the site, in order that customers can see how different organizations can use the software. "Adobe felt that the educational market would be a strong niche and we thought Juniata would be a good fit," says Mike Grove, co-owner with his wife, Pam, of nuHat Media, a digital media firm based in Huntingdon.

"The virtual world created by this software is very similar to the worlds in computer games such as 'Quake' or 'Myst,'" Pam Grove says. "You can move through it, and the rooms and places all will have colors, textures and other attributes that are fairly close to the real Juniata College."

Juniata's virtual world will start small -- with just four buildings. The four structures are Ellis College Center, the main student dining and activities building; Founders Hall, the main administration building and a historic structure; Beeghly Library; and Cloister, one of Juniata's most distinctive residence halls.

"What we provide are the stage settings," Pam Grove explains. "There are many ways Atmosphere can be used by colleges."

The interactive elements in the Atmosphere programs include chat rooms, Internet links to other Web sites and links to other Atmosphere "worlds" -- all without leaving the virtual world the visitor is navigating through. "For example, a visitor could be walking through Juniata's world and enter a chat room to talk about the college with an admissions counselor or a fellow student," Mike Grove says.

"Juniata's model will be showcased on the Adobe Web site as an example of how educational institutions can use the software," says Joel Pheasant, director of web technology at Juniata College. "The company was looking for real-world examples and we were interested in having the capability to better serve our students, faculty and prospective students."

Pheasant says the beta version of Atmosphere will not work on Netscape version 6.0 browsers. For now, only Explorer 4.01 and Netscape versions 4.6 and 4.7 will support Atmosphere.

Contact April Feagley at feaglea@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3131 for more information.