18 Sep The Aftermath of gamescom and a spontaneous road trip to Immersed Europe
First of all, to get it off my shoulders: I never got around to writing a blog post about my virtual reality experiences at gamescom in Cologne in early August unfortunately – but if you’re interested in my truly eye-opening sessions with both the HTC Vive and Oculus CV1 + Touch prototypes, I’ve written a comprehensive overview on the oculus subreddit that I invite you to read.
These new prototypes are truly great and I also enjoyed my time meeting other VR enthusiasts (as well as Palmer Luckey and Brendan Iribe who came to the meetup following my invitation!) at the VREUR networking meetup in the exhibition halls as well as at the aftershow meetup in the city centre.
But my mind was preoccupied with one thing the whole time: a little email I received from Valve that my HTC Vive development kit was on the way to my flat! After maniacally following its FedEX journey online and even fearing not to receive it because noone was at home at the time, I was happy to dive right into developing with my new found treasure when I arrived back home.
Unreal Engine luckily already has built in support for the Vive, so porting Castle VRuin and my other demos was a pretty straightforward job for me. Getting the controllers to work was a little tricky: Sometimes the buttons simply wouldn’t register presses, but that was fixed in 4.9 as well. Inspired by an idea for VR Locomotion from Daniel Sproll, I implemented a simple way of exploring the castle called “ludicrous speed” – essentially, you point the controller at the desired place and travel there in 100 ms, a timespan under the reaction time of humans. I tested this approach with VR-sensitive users and it seems to be comfortable for almost everyone – while still keeping a spatial awareness that just isn’t there when you’re using other methods like teleportation or slower vection towards points of interest.
Due to time constraints, I wasn’t able to implement any other motion and input concepts I have planned – because a friend of mine spontaneously asked me whether I wanted to go to Immersed Europe, the first event by the Immersive Technology Alliance on European soil, which was happening only a few days later! Convinced by the great list of speakers, I decided to go there – But wait. Flying with all the equipment needed for a proper setup of the HTC Vive was out of the question, so I decided that driving through half of Europe was a good idea!
After a short layover at friends of mine in France at the excavation site I previously scanned for data visualization, where the female archeologists enjoyed painting virtual limbo sticks in TiltBrush and dancing underneath them, I continued my journey to Spain. I picked up my friend Dominic at the beach in Alicante (I even put my feet into the water as a token gesture!) and we headed directly to the Universidad de Murcia, where the event was taking place, for a test setup. After grabbing something to eat in the historic city centre of Murcia, I was stunned by the Cathedral of Murcia and its baroque style facade – even if I didn’t bring my proper equipment, I just had to snap a few pictures with my smartphone so I could reconstruct the fine facade structures over night. While the result obviously isn’t great due to the low light photos, I now have a snapshot of Murcia’s beautiful architecture.
The event itself started the next day and the talks, demos and networking chances were great – I even had the chance to take part in a panel called “The game is in play” about gaming in VR, taking a look into the future of photogrammetry in games and the underlying challenges. But most of all I enjoyed receiving hugely positive feedback to both my Castle VRuin demo as well as the archeological visualization that I created of the cave excavation in France.
I couldn’t believe the overwhelming response: among those that gave very positive feedback were big names from Sony and Epic Games, as well as most of the event’s other participants that tried my demo. A shoutout goes to realovirtual.com and their review of my demo (spanish) as well as tomshardware.com, who said they were intrigued by “the impressive photogrammetry demo created by David Finsterwalder from realities.io that played on the HTC Vive”.
Still totally enthused about the feedback, we packed up and Dominic and I made a road trip all the way back, with another layover in France where I showed him both my makeshift ‘Holodeck’ room as well as the cave that he previously only saw virtually. Dominic was awestruck by how authentic the real cave looks when compared to my VR representation – which again shows that 3D models done with photogrammetry are very good for conveying the feeling of being in real places. All the positive feedback, and seeing the energy and enthusiasm everyone in the business has for VR made me realize again that my decision to go all in with Virtual Reality is well founded. I can’t wait to find out what the future brings!