Week commencing 5th October

Toby – Managing Director

Bit bored of forever talking about the COVID-19 pandemic so I won’t. Instead let me mention the meeting I had with a company providing 5G Cloud service provision. What with the rise in such services, as well as similar Cloud XR offerings, maybe we’re on the verge of being able to stream immersive content now. What’s stood in the way, to-date, is the processing power needed on the recipient’s device and the fact that the content can’t be streamed at a high enough frame rate. With those issues solved it will be possible to stream content and “borrow” processing power from the Cloud to a sufficient level that it can run on most people’s local devices without the need to local powerful computer power. So I was intrigued to talk with a company purporting to provide 5G connectivity with “Zero” Chinese involvement (very important, right now, particularly in and around government). We’re working on a test and will let you know how it goes. Edge Computing (or similar), coupled with local 5G networks, could prove to be pretty compelling even aside from the use of VR and AR so it’s an exciting area to explore.

On Thursday I attended a Varjo webinar discussing Boeing’s use of their technology for Space Station simulation training. Honestly I hadn’t even realised that Boeing were involved in the exploration of Space but it was an interesting hour albeit NASA and Boeing seem to be a little behind us (ha ha) in that they’re using the Varjo VR headset rather than the Mixed Reality XR-1 model that we’re developing with. Keep up…

In Team news the dog continues to grow fast, Stefano is in quarantine, Kyung’s back in the office one day per week, Sergio’s talking about coming back in, Jordi’s work on Inverse Kinematics is very exciting (and I know what it means now), Slava’s still hunkered down, and Josh is pretty busy…

Josh – Programme Manager

Even in the quiet times we seem to be busy. This week I’ve been working with Jordi on getting the right vehicle data and physics library for the driving simulator. Key critical to our client proposition is that we will refine each element of the simulator (and simulation) until the experience as a whole is realistic enough to be accepted by Traffic Officers so it’s a stiff test. I’ve also sourced the physical simulator rig, a driver’s seat for the vehicle (EBay…!), and planned how this will all go together working with the rig manufacturers.

Alongside that we’re working towards another demonstration of the Innovation Centre, including a project on Inverse Kinematics (more on that later), I’ve taken part in the discussions regarding the use of 5G in VR, and I’m helping out on a significant proposition that we’re completing for a large client. (Hopefully) more on that later too…!

Sergio – Programmer

During the last week, I had a chance to return working on Virtual Incident Management (VIM), in particular the main Operator user interface and the logic that triggers multiple actions in the scene.

I decided to opt for horizontal layout with clean and simple menu design. The idea was to make the experience familiar and straightforward to use. The multiple features stack in inline order like browser tabs and minimise button allows to break the menu to the edge of the screen to save space for better scene observation.

For this Developer version, I included several additional feature tabs that are not yet implemented but demonstrate what a final tabs layout could look like. It does give you a sneak peek at what the controller will be able to do with the simulation; switch between a number of scenarios, change the weather conditions, change traffic flow and speeds, insert objects, and change the camera view between the headsets of the users in the simulation and also other fixed points in the scene. The idea is that the trainer can be in total control of the (multiple) trainees’ experience within the simulation.

Stefano – 3D Artist

This week I continued modelling the new car.
There’s still a lot of work to do on the interiors and textures in general, but the overall look starts to be more complete and recognisable although it is still quite shiny.

Funnily enough, at the end of this process of modelling and construction, after cleaning up every element of the model, and after polishing it like it was ready to sell in a forecourt…. I’ll have to smash the back side of it completely, because this asset is due to be a crashed car.

However, we’ll still hold on to the polished one to use in other scenarios and other solutions for this client. The way that we build for our strategic clients is with a “Zero Waste” principle. This means that assets, code, etc built for one simulation should be reusable across multiple simulations. Albeit zero waste is not usually achievable by setting that goal we have the right mindset focusing on maximising the Return On Investment at each point.

Slava – Lead 3D Artist

I continue making vehicles for Incident Management project and I completed the first crashed car. To make crashed car paint material I used the same technique that I tested on the cattle trailer. I created PBR material in Substance Painter and exported all textures directly into the Unity project. This technique requires minimum tweaking of Unity materials.

My next task is a model of an open-bed truck with a tarpaulin covered cargo. For the truck itself I modified one of our existing models. I made it shorter and reduced number of wheels. For tarpaulin model I used cloth simulation in 3ds Max. To simulate cargo, I use couple of boxes. As cloth should cover several complex objects, which includes cargo boxes and truck walls, I used several steps of simulation, gradually improving the shape. Now I need to make the material for the tarpaulin.

Kyung-Min – 3D Generalist

This week saw my first day back in the new office and it felt good to be back. With a few of the staff still working remotely, there was plenty of space and early dibs on where to sit…!

Finishing an anchor (!) was the main task for me this week along with the use of Substance Painter and its smart materials. We selected a simple design but with intersecting shapes to give an interesting form in VR that stood out more.  While originally intending to make the anchor brand new, adding a little weathering gave it more character and also some visual narrative as to why the chain could have broken.

Building the chain-link was simple however manually placing them into a chain took quite some time to avoid any chain links intersecting with others. I’m happy with the overall anchor and while there are some ideas to extend and make it even more interesting in VR, for now, I have let it sink in place.

The week came to an end with me returning to the Holodeck experience and tuning the values of the water that flows far below giving a sense of vertigo. Only a few pieces of the experience are left now and I look forward to sharing the experience with you once it’s complete.

Jordi Caballol – Programmer

The demo of the driving simulator we did a few weeks ago was purely a proof of concept. This means that it showed that a Mixed Reality (MR) driving simulator with the required characteristics can be done, but it wasn’t much polished in any way. One of the main issues was that the driving of the car felt very “Gamey”, breaking the immersion that can be achieved with MR. We need to keep in mind that Traffic Officers drive a lot, so they know exactly how the real vehicle feels. What we intend to do is work very closely with the right stakeholders, within the client, to refine and refine until we get as close as we can to the real thing.

Therefore for the next demo the main objective is to improve on the first, and for that purpose we decided to use a professional vehicle physics package, used by many automotive companies for their simulations. My week has been all about integrating this package with our existing project. Also I took the opportunity (and the fact that the package offers way better data) to rewrite the whole force feedback system (the system that creates forces on the wheel to transmit the sensations you would feel in a real car), achieving a far more realistic feeling.