Over the last week, the majority of my focus has been on showing demos of our thesis project at the ACCAD Open House and the Student Art Collective. Quite some time has passed since Tori and I were able to show our progress to anyone outside of ACCAD, and as we didn’t have a working prototype from last semester… we needed to make one that was able to be shown and experienced by the public.
I took what was our Fall prototype and completely rebuilt it between Saturday and Tuesday evening. Part of this was to bring the project forward into a new version of Unity, but I also wanted to include the height adjustment from Phase 1 and a different mob configuration. This build would also require the user to begin the experience sitting on a bench before standing to progress, an interaction I have not tested before in this scene.
My Phase 2 project was temporarily put to the side in order to get this ready for public, so I was not able to test out of the gaze-based interaction. I decided instead to hit a middle-ground between Phase 1 and Phase 2- timed teleportations. Not in the control of the user at all, but a little less disturbing than the sliding motion we previously used. This included a fade in/fade out to signal the motion was about to occur - a fairly simple visual, but actually caused a ton of technical issues. The fade would show up on the screen and not in the headset. For future reference, there is a SteamVR_Fade script that you’re required to use in order to make that appear properly in the headset - normal UI settings do not seem to work in this scenario!
The new environment height scaling feature also changed how I put certain assets in the scene and parented things to each other, as offset pivot points and use of a Unity Terrain asset caused some weird placement issues when the scene was run. And through both demos this week we faced some Audio problems, with the volume being either too low or coming out of the wrong ear. Two solutions to this: better headphones, and making sure the VR camera has an audio listener attached. The SteamVR Camera prefab does not have one attached automatically! And yes, it took me way too long to figure that out.
I rebuilt the Prologue sequence based on some feedback from earlier on in the semester, including more images of Ruby and taking into account the order in which the images appear to create better flow in the scene. For demo purposes, I also included a “start menu” triggered by the operators (Tori and I - spacebar to start the prologue), and an “End of Phase 1” scene that loops back to the start menu.
The Student Art Collective on Tuesday went well - we were set up at a space in Knowlton with the Vive Pro and Wireless Adapter. Actually, that was my first time using the Wireless for anything, and it was perfect for this project. Most of the attendees were students, though we did have a few parents/professors show up and try out the scene. It was a 3 hour exhibition, which gave Tori and I a good measure of how long mobile setup would take and get back in the groove of giving a 30 second explanation/VR prep to new users. There was a short calibration process during setup with the bench to make sure users were facing the right way and the bench was in the center of the play space, but it everything ran smoothly after that.
Friday afternoon was the ACCAD Open House. Tori and I showed our Six-Week prototype at last year’s event, and played that video on a screen this time around to show our progress in the year since. We didn’t have the Wireless for this event, but the scene worked just as well with a tether. We had some wonderful conversations with guests about our work and where it’s going. It was easier for me this time around to speak about our project - I felt much more informed and confident now that we’ve grown from the “exploring technology” phase to the “conceptual development” phase.
FEEDBACK and CRITIQUE
Both of the demos provided valuable information. The most common reaction and comment we received after users exited the experience was about the height change in the scene. Having the mob members towering over and changing at users, some of whom are used to towering over others, was intimidating and placed them in the correct mindset for this experience. We also heard that they appreciated the prologue in the beginning as framing for the experience. It seemed that more of the guests this year had heard of Ruby Bridges before, and once teacher even told us she had a classroom of middle school kids who love Ruby’s story.
The main issues we experienced were technical or had to do with user flow in the experience. Audio was a real issue in the beginning - fixed by cranking the volume to accommodate the noise of the space and using better headphones (thanks, Tori!). The fade in/fade out of the scene seemed to be fixed by having both the SteamVR_Fade script active and the original Fade image active, though sometimes it would flicker between teleports. In the Prologue sequence, images appear around the user in a circle - which would be no problem if the user was in a spinning chair, but on a bench it tends to break flow when they have to turn their head all the way back around to continue looking. Some users who stand to get out of the car will continue to walk around, while others stand in place- not really an issue, but it poses a risk of tripping over the bench unless Tori or I move it. This was especially dangerous with the Wireless demo - users without a tether are more likely to forget and take off. The Student Art Collective demo required one of us to stand at the periphery of the lighthouses once a user was in to make sure they didn’t wander off into the crowd or walk into something.
Overall it was a great experience and I appreciated getting to see how far we came in the last year. And now we have this great demo that I can use to prototype for Phase 2! The upcoming week has calmed slightly in GRA and interview obligations, so I will be able to actually catch up on my production schedule and begin to implement it into this prototype. Along the way I’d also like to polish some of the issues that came up this week and smooth it out, such as the asset pivot problems I discovered and the weird fade flickering.