Tips for Developing Virtual Reality

In October, 2016 we showcased Doghead Simulations at OrlandoiX. This is the southeast's largest gathering of Creators in virtual reality, video games, and digital entertainment

The exhibit halls doors were about to open in fifteen minutes but our virtual hands and heads were not displaying. Our booth was next to two other booths that also had HTC Vive base stations. The interference from the surrounding base stations were affecting everyone's VR demos so that the avatars were not displaying since the controllers and HMD couldn't track. Thankfully, at the last minute, we were able to switch booths but the trouble wasn't over. One of our two demo computers was acting up making it so that we could only have one person at a time in rumii (the name of our VR collaboration software).

By 10:30am we had fully moved three banners, three computers, two HTC Vive sets, one TV, and one bowl of candy. At least our looped demo played without a hitch. Not soon after people started stopping at our booth (it helped that we were right next to a simulated roller coaster ride). They came to OrlandoiX as students (many from Full Sail), professionals, tech enthusiasts, and some just because they had free tickets. They asked what our game was so we explained that Doghead Simulations created a virtual reality space for distributed Agile teams. It's a mouthful, we know. I guess we can take pride in that our business application looks so engaging people think it's a game! The video peaked their interest so they asked for a demo. In the demo we heard people say, "wow" "this is cool, this is really cool", "this is the most practical thing I've seen here!".

We had a rock star team at OrlandoiX. Will, Amanda, Justin, and Jameson did a great job enthusiastically manning the booth, walking attendees through our demo, and explaining the pain points it solves. Chance, Elbert, and Rusty also managed the booth in between their talks and Q&A panels. I like to think it also helped that we had a giant Halloween candy bowl. We even had some kids try our demo even though the headsets were too big for their heads. 

Elbert was the first to have a talk. His speech was on development for VR games. Key highlights include:

Developing VR is hard.

We hear a lot the possibilities of VR and investors are constantly saying how we should be creating unique content and develop VR origin solutions. However, that is hard! He made a good point that developers have been trained for years to look at design and data visualization from the 2D point of view. Switching to 3D isn't as easy as one would think.

In VR, you have to prototype your work.

You have to try it out. The data on how to release objects or environments doesn't exist yet. Here he told a great story of how he had a burrito for lunch once while he was working on a headset concept. While prototyping the HTC Vive, his head became so confused that he became seriously ill! He had to take the headset off and sleep for an hour until the sickness passed.

Elbert wasn’t the only speaker at OrlandoiX to touch on the importance of prototyping. Rusty Sempsrott from Volition explained that Prototyping is good but developers have to take it to the next level and ask, is it player focused or technical focused? As in, is the prototype affecting the end user or is it going to affect the back end design? He reiterated the importance of having the answer so time isn’t wasted in re-doing work.

The expectations are high for this young industry.

We had the first consumer headsets in April of 2016. That is not a lot of time but the industry is already expecting AAA experiences. In reality, this is the tip of the iceberg.

Make experiences of value.

It's all about efficiency than making unnecessary movements. Just because you can make someone shoot an arrow through a ring of axes to open a virtual door doesn't mean that they should every time. "people don't have gorilla arms". Tom Cruise needed help to hold his arms up because that got tired. Remember that we're used to our arms resting on a desk to type. Try holding your arms out for 10, 15 minutes. See how well you can work then.

Audio will be key in VR.

Don't forget about audio. Everything is moving towards audio. Cortana, Hey Google, Siri - voice will be even bigger in VR. 

Chance’s Talk was after Elbert’s. Chance talked about Moore’s Law as it applies to virtual reality. “Moore’s Law is a computing term which originated around 1970; the simplified version of this law states that processor speeds, or overall processing power for computers will double every two years.” Or more recently every 18 to 24 months. Chance explained that resolution for HMDs (head mounted displays) will improve significantly over time. This will lead to adoption in gaming and non-gaming markets alike. For instance, we have seen interest in our VR collaboration software for house architecture, commercial buildings, remote Agile development teams, and remote teams who need to collaborate on 3D models.

We know that VR tech will allow us to use it in these industries because already we have gone from the Virtuality 1000CS (1991) with 276x372 resolution per eye, a little bit higher than a Nintendo NES, Latency just under 50ms, 20HZ, and cost $100,000 USD+ to the HTC Vive, for example. The Vive has 1080x1200 per eye, 22ms latency,  110 FOV, and 90HZ for only $799. Soon, we will have 4K resolution per eye. This means that although it’s difficult to read text from a distance in VR now, due to poor resolution, it will soon not be a problem as the hardware catches up to the software. That is a theme we kept seeing over and over at OrlandoiX. That our content needs to push the limits of VR hardware. By pushing it we will force evolutions of hardware, enabling better, more realistic content.

After Elbert and Chance spoke we had a new surge of conference attendees come to our booth. We gave many memorable demos and got to see the optimism in the student’s who attended for their future careers. We also saw hope in business people that there is a better way to hold a teleconference. We surprised people with the fact that companies spend $1 trillion dollars on travel annually and they loved our solution to that. Most importantly we were able to be together as a team and collaborate on the vision Doghead Simulations going forward.

 

A big thank you to Christa Rensel, Rob Coble, and Adrian Rosales for your support and encouragement at OrlandoiX! Thank you for helping us pull off a successful event. We look forward to attending next year.