What with all the news going round about Virtual Reality (VR), we wanted to spend some time doing some serious (and not so serious) R&D. So we setup a VR Jam with the aim of playing with the possibilities of VR immersivity and to understand what works and what doesn’t. We split into groups, worked individually and all work together to make it as collaborative and interesting as possible. Our plan was to make lots of playable demos and experiments over finished pieces.
So what did we achieve? Setting aside the obvious fun of sticky silly eyes onto cardboard VR sets, we built some great stuff, including:
Oculus and Kinect mash-up
We wanted to combine the Oculus and Kinect for a more immersive all-round experience, so we did a quick integration of the two technologies using existing 3D Kinect character models. The result was when standing with VR headset, you saw a body below in VR-space, which also detected arm and leg movement.
We found that first person much more immersive than standard VR and it might be a great way to control a 3rd person avatar, however there was quite slow feedback.
Shootout Duelling Game in Cardboard
The challenge was to create a 2 player game where two characters can duel in VR space in a simulated Western environment using the Google Cardboard headset. We built it using Unity 3D space with Unity 5.1 multiplayer (via Unet) meaning the two players were in the same environment over wifi. The upshot was that 2 players could connect and see each other in the environment and shoot each other. This was a challenging proof of concept with a lot of complex technology to bring together. We could see this working really well with some beacons to pinpoint player's location accurately in real-space and translate that to VR-space and combining that with the phone's inbuilt compass for direction and movement tracking.
3D Building Walkthrough on rails
The plan was to create a simple 3D model with camera track that you automatically follow in a guided-tour manner. Another one built in Unity 5.1 as that's our core technology. A great experience, but it felt like you were being dragged around! We discovered that controlling the player's speed and path needs to be very carefully considered to make it feel natural. Overall a good experiment but we felt we'd prefer to be a bit more in control, so a simple path speed control might be a good addition.
Quick Conversion of Spirit Fighter game to Oculus
Given our gaming pedigree and lots of stuff on the shelf, we chose to also look at taking an existing infinite runner game and make it work for Oculus. This was a very quick export out of Unity with most of the time spent making 3D assets work in 360 viewport rather than the game conversion itself. We found that the 3rd person worked very well as you could really judge character jumps. this also led us to consider trying it with 1st person and some way to detect physical jumps, maybe with Kinect. Upshot was there's lots of immersive potential.
Having read up previously on VR and watched all the videos we could find, even blogging about if after E3, we were convinced it's a new frontier in gaming and experiential computing. Now we've had the chance to actually get our hands dirty all our suspicions have been confirmed. We can't wait!