Although the disruption caused by the pandemic lingers, we continue to develop new solutions to challenges that didn’t exist a few months ago. Organisations still want to get out amongst their customers and show off their goods and services, but in a safe, socially distanced way. And that’s when augmented reality solutions, driven by QR codes and smartphones come to the fore. More next time. This was our week.

Week commencing 24th August

Toby – Managing Director

Lots of to-ing and fro-ing this week after returning from holidays and as the team (virtually) filter back into their various quarantines coming back from various countries. Our various projects are bubbling away and some exciting meetings are coming up; one of which needs a big green box…

In terms of working ‘on’ the business we’ve made investments in time and money during lockdown, so we get a sprint start, when our clients return from holidays in September and October. More of that to come.

Josh – Programme Manager

This week as ever I had a lot of projects and people to juggle to ensure everything stays on track, but my highlights were:

• Editing our project management process a little, mainly to reduce the amount of unnecessary QA on relatively minor changes; in some cases our Quality Assurance process on a task was taking longer than the task itself

• Began using a portfolio management tool within Jira to see what it can do. Jira is our main Project Management tool.

• Created wireframes for our website project

• Requested a StarTracker plugin for our Varjo headset so we can add eye tracking as an option for our various augmented and virtual reality projects, including in the Innovation Centre.

Cat – Lead Programmer

I started by doing some bug fixes and adding developer quality-of-life improvements to Incident Management. When working on complex projects it’s important to spend some time up-front making sure the process of working on it, is as streamlined as possible.

There were a few network-related bugs that, while not disastrous in themselves, would have caused headaches for anyone trying to regularly work with the networking aspects of the solution.

I’ve also started working on trying to unify our internal packages to make them simpler to use in the future. We have three packages we generally include in every Unity project, to help with automated building, scene management and a number of helpful structures and functions we use in code.

Over the past several months I’ve noticed that these packages are never used in isolation – as such, it makes sense to bind them together for future use to avoid having to update them individually.
Similarly, we have separate road and traffic systems, which really belong together – why would you have traffic without a road, or vice versa?

Looking forward to building out a set of tools to make it as easy as possible to configure a road environment for the requirements of any road-based solution we build in the future, which is highly likely given the success of our work with Highways England. Dave)

Sergio – Programmer

During the week, I continued working in collaboration with our artists on our current web Augmented Reality project.

While mostly taking on new animations provided and testing them, I also jumped back to a parallel project, Incident Management. I took responsibility for designing and implementing a new fresh prototype User Interface for Operators which would trigger various behaviours in trainees.

To trigger the behaviours, we need a manager that accepts input and triggers a sequence of events that changes the environment state. This component will be used by designers and therefore needs to have a straightforward setup process.

Thankfully, we already used something similar in our Traffic Officer Virtual Reality project, the customer reaction graph. Now, I will start adapting it to our needs in this project.

Stefano – 3D Artist

This week I received the torch from Slava, so I started working on his Traffic Officer vehicle 3D model and textures to get it ready it for animations. As it is meant to be loaded in a web page, every polygon counts and I have to balance appearance against file size, so I approached it very carefully.

To optimize the performance, I moved and overlapped some uv’s coordinates to get the repeated textures pixels from a smaller portion of the image, which allows me to save space in the texture for other objects.
I created some of the required animations and then I tested the exporting process to double check if they play correctly and are compatible with the final platform.

I’m getting ready for next week, when I will finish all the remaining animations and work on the final look of the car. Something this realistic, shouldn’t really work for browser-based solution, but as ever, here at MXTreality, we make light of such challenges.

Slava – Lead 3D Artist

Last week I planned to create our first completely custom character in Character Creator, based on a real photo. I was only able to spend one day on this experiment, but the test was very promising as in one day I was able to make a chunky guy with a face very similar to the original photo.

I didn’t aim to make a copy of a real person, but rather to create a character who looks like a real person not like generic artificial dummy. The next test is to create some realistic custom clothes for him, as the default accessories in Character Creator are very poor, which is the main drawback of this programme.

Another task this week was preparation of a car model for one of our augmented reality projects. This project is designed to demonstrate the essential vehicle checks every driver should make before undertaking a long journey. In addition to this car, I also created some small assets and tools, such as a tyre pressure tester and an oil dipstick.

Kyung-Min – 3D Generalist

Having been on sick leave for quite some time now, I wanted to share some things regarding my life and how they impact work and daily life. MXTreality has been more than just a job for me, it was like a second family and my chance to be part of an open wider society.

In the time leading up to my sick leave, I spent a lot of time in isolation, which meant I missed the opportunities to spend time with my colleagues and friends. I now recognise this had a negative effect on my mental health, like so many during the lockdown.

COVID-19 has changed the world and how we all interact with it. Having to keep a safe distance even from those we love has changed our lives and our approach to work.

We can’t change what has been and all the things that have happened during this period, but I realised that I can learn from these hard times and put that lesson to good use going forwards. I am now trying hard to push forward and reintegrate with the team and refresh my life.

I have nothing but thanks everyone at MXTreality who have all truly been a family for me through the good and bad. I’m very grateful for it and I look forward to building a better future together.

Jordi Caballol – Programmer

This week I returned to the Driving Game, a project where the user has to drive on a motorway in the safest way possible. My task was to add trucks to the traffic, but fitting them into the system proved challenging and required modifications to the code – we needed to manage vehicles that had different speed limits and were of very different sizes.

I took this opportunity to improve two points of the traffic system:

– With the old system the road was divided into cells, very much like a chessboard. This meant cars could check if a cell was free or if there was a car in it, so they knew if the space around them was free and reacted accordingly. The size of the cells adjusted based on the size of the cars, but the addition of trucks would make it far more difficult to adjust.

– The AI vehicles always drove exactly at the speed limit, except when braking to keep the distance with the vehicle in front. This meant that it was very static, with the cars almost never overtaking.

In the new system after my improvements:

– The cars know the speed and distance of the vehicles immediately in front or behind them. This works well with any size of vehicle, so it covers the newly added trucks.

– The speed of the car is now slightly below the speed limit, by a random amount for each vehicle, which means they now overtake each other. Also the fact that we manage the cars having different speeds, allows us to easily manage the fact that the trucks are slower.

I know we’ve said it before, but we always try hard to go that bit further than anyone else would to add detail that improves the immersive experience for the user – it’s what we do.