Sensei Alan Craig on BLUI, “Body Language User Interface” (1999)

Last week I noted the charming little video from Glen Keane, who is excited by his VR system that lets him “step into the page”. Keane’s excitement speaks for itself, and this VR is clearly something new for him.

When I showed this video to my VR Sensei Alan Craig, he liked it, too.

But then he remarked, “But – that is BLUI  (Body Language User Interface – pronounced Bluey).   Alaska BLUI was one of my favorite CAVE apps back in the 90s.  It was very simple but oh so powerful.

He is referring to the sweet, simple application from the Arctic Region Supercomputing Center (at Fairbanks, Alaska), developed by Bill Brody and Chris Hartman in the 1990s (nearly twenty years ago). The report was described in a couple of papers (refs 1-4  below), and a report is available here.

The same folks created BLUISculpt™, for creating 3D shapes with a similar interaction. (Ref 5-6 and: source code for BLUISculpt!)

I don’t know if this is a port, or a deliberate reimplimenation, or just a case of convergent development. It doesn’t really matter.

Mainly I wanted to acknowledge the earlier work, and point out that VR has been around a long time, and most of the “new” apps you see this year were done a long time ago at supercomputing centers (where we could muster the oomph to run it).

Sensei Alan comments about BLUI, “It was always one of my favorites to show kids because they could draw so easily.  It was also great for demoing 6 DOF tracking because I could draw a simple house and then have people step inside it.

The bottom line is: if you are interested in creating Virtual Reality, you might be well served to consult with Dr. Craig and other pioneers (see refs 7-9 and here). They know a lot, you should try to stand on the shoulders of these giants.


  1. Brody, Arthur W. and Chris Hartman. BLUI: a body language user interface for 3D gestural drawing, 1999, 356-363.
  2. Brody, Arthur W. and Chris Hartman. Painting in space, 2001, 602-614.
  3. Brody, Bill and Chris Hartman, A Painting in Space. Arctic Region Supercomputing Center, Fairbanks, 2000.
  4. Brody, Bill, Painting Space With BLUI (SIGGraph explorations), in SIGGraph. 2000: New Orleans.
  5. Brody, Bill, Glenn G. Chappell, and Chris Hartman, BLUIsculpt™, in ACM SIGGRAPH 2002 conference abstracts and applications. 2002, ACM: San Antonio, Texas. p. 291-291.
  6. Craig, Alan B., Understanding Augmented Reality: Concepts and Applications, San Francisco, Morgan Kaufman, 2013.
  7. Craig, Alan B., William R. Sherman, and Jeffrey D. Will, Developing Virtual Reality, Burlington, MA, Morgan Kaufmann, 2009.
  8. Sherman, William R. and Alan B. Craig, Understanding Virtual Reality: Interface Application and Design, San Francisco, Morgan Kaufmann, 2003.

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