SIRT continues to navigate the Virtual Reality (VR) landscape by exploring the technical and creative requirements necessary for immersive VR. We utilized the HTC Vive as well as a combination of our OptiTrack motion capture system with the Oculus Rift and Unity game engine to allow users to physically move around within a defined space and experience a virtual world complete with positional and 360° tracking. In The Cavern, the user finds themselves lost in a long-forgotten, dark cave. Armed with just a torch, a mysterious voice on the radio guides the user through the experience. SIRT's Cavern VR demo aims to shine a light on what’s possible within a virtual production environment.
We developed and prototyped The Cavern experience based on our belief that that with the current state of development of VR it's critical to simultaneously work on creative prototyping and evaluation of the user experience in combination with technology development - one helps inform the other. Given the diverse expertise of our staff we're able to do this across all types of cinematic and game-based VR. Core elements that were included in the project included:
- A simple immersive experience with some gameplay elements
- Physically walking around in a virtual environment (room-scale using HTC Vive as well as 'stage-scale' using our 24 camera mocap system in combination with the Oculus)
- User interaction with environment and props
- Use of spatial and immersive audio
- Use of 4D elements and their impact on the experience.
As an example of our focus on strengthening user immersion we created the experience so that it begins with a natural user action. There is no 'start' button. The experience begins in the cavern with the torch on the floor in front of the user. The lighting is very dim, with the torch as the subtle focus. The application waits for the user, allowing the player to take their time to settle in, make sure they are comfortable, headset is on properly, and audio is working. Given the value that people place on VR as a means to increase the user's sense of presence, this focus on ways of impacting immersion will remain a priority in our work in VR.
The above is a 3D model of our stage. During the design phase, we needed to establish an accurate representation of the physical footprint the experience would take place in. We took a series of photographs of the SIRT stage and using photogrammetry software we were able to reconstruct a 3D model of our motion capture volume. By bringing the reconstruction into Unity and streaming live mocap markers into the scene we were able to match live markers to specific features that were contained within the reconstructed model. This allowed us to establish the necessary scale and build out the cavern experience within a defined stage scale space.
This video shows the Cavern's room-scale version built with modular assets for the ability to resize to small and large physical spaces.
We showcased the Cavern experience at OCE Discovery 2016.