Local restrictions indicate the pandemic is not fully behind us, but there has been a significant increase in business activity as the UK looks to get back to work. This week the focus was helping our clients train safely for work in dangerous environments, with our Mixed Reality driving simulator ready to be tested for the first time by a key client.

Using the Varjo XR-1 means we can produce high fidelity graphics, offer a real sense of presence (since you can see each other rather than an avatar representation), and tap into eye tracking that’s native in the headset. This was our week.

Week commencing 7th September

Toby – Managing Director

We have some important demonstrations coming up over the next few weeks and, with the mooted possibility of further COVID-19 related travel restrictions, we need to make sure that we make the most of them.

The impact of the first national lockdown, on our business, was the cessation of new business; put simply meetings were cancelled, event planning stopped, and potential clients were clearly focused on maintaining their cash reserves.

In recent weeks we’ve enjoyed a distinct uptick in activity and a refreshing interest from brand new clients. We really don’t want the brakes put on that again.

Also this week we got the whole band back together. And since it’s always sunny and hot in London the weather proved to be perfect for a team picnic in the park.

We headed over to Kensington Palace Gardens with the office pooch, Milo, and had a lovely time just chatting and making contact with each other again. And we got to meet Kyung’s parents who are over from South Korea for the month. What a treat.

Josh – Programme Manager

It has been a busy week, but I managed to complete the second and hopefully final set of wireframes for our new website, which will better reflect the innovation and creativity of the MXTreality team.

I also wrote an article comparing delivery methods of driving simulators, which focused on the differences between a multi-2d-screen setup and head mounted displays both mixed and virtual, but more of that in a later blog.

We also prepared with Jordi and Toby for an upcoming demonstration of the latest iteration of our driving simulator, for a client in Moreton-in-Marsh.

If you’re a regular reader of our blogs, you’ll know that last week I’d tweaked our project management process and this week we implemented into our workflow. So far nothing has gone wrong, which is good! or Dave)

Sergio – Programmer

Sorry, but I was on holiday all week. Very relaxing.

Stefano – 3D Artist

This week I started fixing the 3D assets for our web-based Augmented Reality (AR) experience, still trying all the options and a few tricks to ensure we get the best result.

I found that the animations are all automatically simplified when exported, but in a horrible way, that eliminates all the smoothing and precision I had worked hard to inject into the animation curves. The solution although very easy, is at a ridiculous performance cost.

In the second part of the week I studied the design of the AR markers. They are described to the software from a grid of colour values contained in a file (like in picture) where the zero means black and 255 means white, which gives it data to compare with the signal received through the camera.

The amount of values to describe the image is very limited and cannot store the smaller details, but the software is capable of understanding the shape with a smart guessing procedure that considers the overall shape.

That’s why I think that a good way to guess if your design would be a good marker, is to apply a strong blur effect to it and see if you are still able to understand what it is.

Slava – Lead 3D Artist

I continue working on developing custom characters in Character Creator 3 (CC3). This time I was testing the clothing workflow and I managed to change the default shirt to make it more generic and to fit a bigger character.

I changed the geometry of this shirt inside Character Creator, having made a custom texture for it in photoshop. It was easy to apply jeans because there is a good model in CC3 and I only changed the shape of the character’s legs.

But unfortunately, the library of shoes in CC3 is almost useless, as there are only punk boots, so I imported an external model of running shoes and adjusted their size in CC3.

To make them work correctly with the character I also applied so called ‘skin weights’. It is the same procedure as rigging, just another name and I can report that this tool works really well in CC3. It was probably the most enjoyable rigging in my life!

And finally, I made a t-shirt from scratch to test this important option. I created the t-shirt in 3ds Max, then made high-poly folds in 3D-Coat and textures in Substance Painter. Then I repeated the same workflow as with running shoes.

Thus, I successfully tested all opportunities in creating custom clothing and now I’m confident we are ready to make any realistic character from scratch, relatively quickly, while avoiding the need for any manual modelling.

Kyung-Min – 3D Generalist

This week saw the first MXTreality picnic, where I got to meet the whole team again in person and not on Teams for a change. While this marked the last day for a while for Cat, who was integral to the foundations of MXTreality, it was a happy day outside of the office for a change.

The meeting was extremely positive for my mental state and boosted my confidence, whilst alleviating many stresses I had been going through.

Being there with the team I’ve come to remember that these technologies we spend so much time on these days should not replace human interactions, but enhance them.

It’s too easy to get lost in the ease of technology, texts and Facebook etc., instead of meeting to catch up in person, risking turning social interactions into a tick box exercise.

Yes meeting people takes more time, effort and things can go wrong, especially in times of a global pandemic, but in the end, we are humans and not mechanical devices, the imperfections we have are what make us great.

What we do at MXTreality is to train in Mixed Reality, but the ultimate goal is for that to prepare someone for when they meet you in person and in the end that’s what really counts.

Jordi Caballol – Programmer

This week has been all about getting ready for the demo of the driving simulator. On one hand there were some aspects of how to use it that weren’t very intuitive, like the menu navigation, so I spent time making that more user-friendly.

Also there were some aspects that were not as refined as we wanted them to be, with the potential to cause bugs, so this has also received some work.

So, basically, this week has been devoted to refining the simulator without making any significant changes that could cause unpleasant surprises during the demonstration – there are times when you realise how good something is, so have to step back and stop dabbing at your painting!