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The Hideout — Virtual Reality Showroom

The Hideout — Virtual Reality Showroom

Expertise project building showrooms for a multiplayer virtual reality experience

Introduction

During this one-week expertise project, we utilised the Extended Reality Lab at Anhalt University’s campus in Bernburg-Strenzfeld to create and experience multiplayer virtual reality installations. The lab offers a system that optically tracks all participants in 3D space enabling them to see each other inside the virtual world. Additionally, a hand tracking system allows the participants to interact with hand gestures inside the virtual space.

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Campus Tour

Before diving headfirst into the digital world, we had a tour around the campus which is basically one large experimental garden and absolutely beautiful. It is definitely worth a trip.

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Getting Started

For creating our virtual showrooms, we used Blender to model 3D objects and Unity to assemble the scenes, configure materials, and export the projects to the Holodeck system.

We started with an introduction to Blender and Unity on Monday. Because I have used both applications extensively before this expertise project, I began modelling a greenhouse in the meantime. I used Rhino’s Grasshopper plug-in to create a parametric model that could be easily customised (for example width, length, height, divisions, thickness of struts, etc.).

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My initial idea was to use this greenhouse as a virtual exhibition space to showcase some personal works and place greenery around the greenhouse, but this idea was eventually discarded as the interior would have been too empty and bland.

Instead, I started working on a new scene in Blender with the notion of creating a somewhat secret place you can retreat to and where you can relax — kind of like a hideout.

The Hideout

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One limitation of the project was that no downloaded 3D models could be used for the showroom. To create the models for my showroom, I applied different techniques, such as direct modelling, texture displacement, parametric/procedural modelling, curve modelling, and photogrammetry.

For instance, the bookshelf and the table are made using Blender’s Geometry Nodes (similar to Grasshopper) and the vase and cup on the table are based on revolved curves.

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I also tried out a new photogrammetry workflow utilising Apple’s Object Capture to compute 3D models from photos of real-life objects. This process was incredibly straightforward. I recorded videos of moving around a few plants and stones I found on campus and put them into PhotoCatch which extracted a subset of images from the videos and used Object Capture to identify features, align the images in 3D space, and create 3D models including texture data. While this took a few hours per model, the outcomes were astonishing and exceeded the quality of previous photogrammetry workflows I tried.

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To export 3D scenes and assets to the Holodeck system, we used a dedicated plug-in for the game engine and development environment Unity. Due to the restriction of internet access on campus caused by a cyber attack in early 2022, we were limited to an older version of Unity and the Holodeck system software. This posed a few challenges, the unavailability of real-time lighting for example. Instead, so-called lightmaps would have to be used to create light effects and shadows. Lightmaps are pre-rendered textures that are overlayed on top of the objects’ textures. This only works for static objects though and rendering (or “baking”) these lightmaps is very time-consuming. It is also tricky when objects use the same space on a texture multiple times as this will introduce artefacts. However, I managed to get a decent result in time that was very beneficial for my virtual showroom.

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Presentation

Finally, we presented our virtual showrooms by exploring them through the virtual reality headsets. It was a very fun experience to see everyone’s work around you and physically walk through it.

Unfortunately the audio was not recorded properly, but I hope you will enjoy my walkthrough of The Hideout nonetheless.

Due to the limited timeframe of this project, I have yet to finish and perfect The Hideout. I’m eager to revisit my showroom in the future and test it at the Extended Reality Lab in Bernburg-Strenzfeld.

Thanks for watching!

2 Kommentare

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Really great Jakob...