Columbia University
Department of Computer Science

COMS W4172: 3D User Interfaces and Augmented Reality

Spring 2023 Tu/Th 1:10–2:25pm, 227 SW Mudd

Prof. Steven Feiner 
feiner [AT] cs [DOT] columbia [DOT] edu
212 853-8453

A maintenance technician's view through a see-through head-worn display
    of augmented reality instructions for assembling an aircraft engine combustion chamber. A remote expert demonstrates how to place a virtual copy of the chamber top,    while the technician holds the real chamber top and moves it into place, guided by colored \

Syllabus and assignments


3D user interfaces are already essential to fields as diverse as visualization and video games, and are becoming even more important as personal computer and smartphone user interfaces incorporate increasingly powerful 3D technology. COMS W4172 provides an introduction to this exciting way of interacting with computers, with an emphasis on methods for designing and developing effective 3D user interfaces. The course's name acknowledges the major role played in our projects by augmented reality—dynamically integrating spatially registered 3D virtual media with our experience of the real world. We will explore:

Your grade will be based on:

There will be no final exam, but we hope you'll be having too much fun doing the final project to miss it.

Prerequisites are at least one of the following:

Please don't hesitate to talk with me to find out if this is the right course for you! Prior familiarity with the 3D math used in COMS W4160  will be helpful, but is not required: the course will include a review of the 3D math needed to understand the material and do the assignments.


Steve Feiner (feiner [AT] cs [DOT] columbia [DOT] edu) is a Professor of Computer Science and director of the Computer Graphics and User Interfaces Lab. He is interested in most aspects of human–computer interaction and computer graphics, with special emphasis on interactive 3D user interfaces, virtual and augmented reality, mobile and wearable computing, hybrid user interfaces that combine different display and interaction technologies, automated design of graphics and multimedia, computer games, healthcare applications, and information visualization (i.e., “fun stuff”). He will hold office hours right after class (other hours by appointment—please don't hesitate to email). He will usually stay after class for as long as it takes to answer any questions you have.

Instructional Assistants

Bettina Schlager (bs3395 [AT] columbia [DOT]) is a CS PhD student in the Computer Graphics and User Interfaces Lab, passionate about 3D user interfaces and interaction in augmented and virtual reality for task guidance, with a focus on industrial applications. Her research investigates how to use theories from cognitive science about attention and perception to guide users through complex procedures while keeping their field of view uncluttered. Her office hours will be on Thursdays 10am–11am in 6LE3 CEPSR.

Elaine Lee (el3031 [AT] columbia [DOT] edu) is a senior in CC double-majoring in computer science and neuroscience. She is a member of the Computer Graphics and User Interfaces Lab, where she is working with climatologists to create an augmented reality game that teaches players about CO2 and its impact on climate change. In her spare time, she enjoys making games on Unity and playing the violin and the Otamatone™. Her office hours will be on Mondays 11:30am–12:30pm in the CS IA room (122 SW Mudd).


J. LaViola Jr., E. Kruijff, R. McMahan, D. Bowman, and I. Poupyrev. 3D User Interfaces: Theory and Practice, 2nd Edition. Addison-Wesley, Boston, 2017, ISBN-13 978-0-13-403432-4 [required].

D. Schmalstieg and T. Höllerer. Augmented Reality: Principles and Practice. Addison-Wesley, Boston, 2016, ISBN-13 978-0-32-188357-5 [required].

Additional reading material will be announced in the syllabus and in class.

Computing Environment

For those assignments that involve programming, we will use Unity (initially Unity 2021.3 LTS, possibly progressing to later versions as the semester unfolds), which supports the development of 3D applications for desktop, hand-held, and head-worn displays. To enable augmented reality, in which the user's perception of the surrounding real world is integrated with geometrically aligned 3D media, we will rely on Unity AR Foundation, which can track the position and orientation of printed images, can detect planar surfaces in the environment, and can determine their position and orientation, when run on appropriate Android or iOS devices.

You will be deploying your apps to your own handheld Android or iOS device with a camera (a smartphone or tablet) or a Meta Quest 2 headset that we will provide.

For additional information, please see the following documentation that we've prepared for the course: CS W4172 IA Resource Page, Installing Unity, and Developing with Unity.

Rules of the Game

You are responsible for all material covered in class and all the assigned reading listed in the syllabus, including any changes or additions announced in class. If you miss a class, please talk to someone who didn't. (Copies of each class's slides will be linked to the syllabus.)

Course material will be found on the web through CourseWorks, and the syllabus and assignments will be linked through

Submission Policy

Each assignment should be submitted electronically through CourseWorks, before the beginning of the class (1:10pm) on the day the assignment is due. If you don't submit an assignment on time, the following lateness policy applies.

Lateness Policy

All assignments are due at 1:10pm on the scheduled due date before, not during or after, class. To make the deadlines more manageable, each student will be allowed four “late days” during the semester for which lateness will not be penalized. However, no late days may be applied to the final project, and only one late day may be applied to the first assignment. Otherwise, your four late days may be used as you see fit.

Anything turned in past the start of class until midnight the next day is one day late. Every (partial) day thereafter that an assignment is late, including weekends and holidays, counts as an additional late day.

Absolutely no late work will be accepted beyond that accounted for by your late days. If you're not done on time, please be sure to turn in whatever you have completed on time to receive partial credit. Now, please go back and read this section over again!

Academic Honesty Policy

Please make sure that you have read the Department of Computer Science Policies and Procedures Regarding Academic Honesty. Collaboration on any assignment (except as an approved part of team projects) is, as in all Columbia courses, strictly prohibited.  Infractions will be reported to the Department of Computer Science Academic Committee and referred to the Deans.

For example, this means that if you use GitHub (or any similar facility) to maintain material for an individual or team assignment, you must use a private repository whose access is appropriately restricted. (Note that the GitHub Student Developer Pack is free for registered students and allows the creation of an unlimited number of private repositories.) Similarly, videos should also be protected.