It’s been another busy week in the MXTreality studio. New projects required us to recruit new talent into the team, which given the highly specialised nature of what we do and how we do it, had us scouring Europe and beyond. We know where they’ll sit and the furniture is ordered. Here is our week.

Toby – I’m in Charge Here

I started the week in Bristol, where I tend to spend a couple of days each week working from a client’s offices.

We’re gearing up for a couple of events that we’re supporting; Big Bang STEM event in March and then April’s Commercial Vehicle show, both at the NEC in Birmingham. Each will have their own solution to attract attendees; right now, we’re thinking a game for the STEM event and some kind of simulator for the Commercial Vehicle one.

With Brexit Day upon us, thoughts are also turning to the futures of our colleagues. Our team’s a real mixture of nationalities and not everyone has the right to remain permanently now. Brexit may be potentially expensive and I worry, disruptive to a small business like ours.

It is hard to find the skills we’re looking for in the UK, let alone at the right cost and I feel Brexit will make it harder for us to recruit and retain the right people. I wait to be pleasantly surprised. The tech sector will feel it most and while we have a lot to offer and lead the way, the media focus seems to be on fish and finance.

Anyway, we have two new people joining us and will introduce them soon, when they’re unpacked and ready to go. Really exciting times; just a pity that we’ve purposefully made life harder for ourselves by leaving the European Union.

Cat – Lead Programmer

This week I’ve been assessing stability and performance in our Customer Experience solution. Because of our rapid continuous integration (CI) approach to building solutions we’re able to quickly implement new features and pivot our development trajectory at relatively low cost.

It’s immensely useful to be able to effectively develop solutions with oft-changing requirements, but it comes at the cost of sometimes having untested and unstable systems in our development builds.

In particular, this week I’ve identified a performance issue with the weather system we’ve been using, so next week the challenge will be to resolve this issue without sacrificing the quality of our sky – not a sentence I thought I’d ever write!

Besides this, I’ve patched a handful of outstanding bugs in the project, that might have slipped through the net as we’ve developed the rest of it at pace. We’ve worked on developing our internal approach for catching performance and stability issues early, instead of waiting until late in a particular development cycle, or sprint.

Josh – Programme Manager

I spent time in Birmingham and Godstone this week; wrapping up the eye-tracking study in Birmingham which was designed to understand the effect of animation on attention.

And in Godstone, we met with traffic officers to get their experiences of being out on the road network. I also travelled in their vehicle and played with the lights, so we could record their action accurately – we’re all about detail. We didn’t have time to record the engine noise, or scan the vehicle, but there’s always next time.

I also spent a day script-writing and constructing dialogue trees for a Highways England (HE) experience project that’s in the planning stage. We started analysing the results from the eye-tracking study, which looks likely to deliver some interesting conclusions.

I helped interview a 3D generalist we need to take the team to the next level. Toby hired him. He’s cool, the recruit not Toby. Tried a new office layout to squeeze our expanding team into the same space, but only resulted in turning the office into a sweatshop – not good!

Found some of the voice over artists we need for a variety of projects we have on the go and also revised the quote for the HE project we’re creating.

Stefano – 3D Artist

This week I spent more time re-working and creating some new animations for a 3D horse model. To achieve better, more realistic results I had to watch a lot of videos about horses, building a reference library of clips to help me understand better how they move.

Since a horse has rather complex motions and the 3D model has a very large set of controls, firstly I posed carefully the main keyframes. This helps to keep everything well organised, readable and easy to tweak.

Then I cured the proper blending between those poses, comparing the animation with the reference, frame by frame. Finally, I added the tail and mane animations, along with small movements to other body parts, that although less important to the main motion, add realism.

Once composed, I tested the animations on Unity, to check the blending between the various poses adopted by the virtual horse. To end the week, I left horses alone and spent time checking what objects and systems need to be added to the interior of the Highways England Traffic Officer car.

Sergio – Programmer

Adapting and Polishing. When creating a design of a User Interface (UI) for multipurpose use, we had to take into account the adaptability of the features.

For our customer experiences, the user had to be familiar in using the interface during the interactions with NPCs (Non-Player Characters) and other instances where we presented the choices made for evaluation.

Throughout the week, I have been tweaking the logic behind the VR user interface to make it more open and adaptable to other scenarios.

My team aims for the highest quality possible, which requires a considerable amount of iteration and testing. In the days ahead, I will be focusing on polishing the user experience for our solutions, including sound and animations.

Slava – Lead 3D Artist

This week I was continuing to improve the interior of a new car model, which included adding realistic detail, such as gauges, the radio and different knobs.

I also improved many original textures to make everything look realistic and correct from the driver’s perspective. The quality is so high now we can now use this vehicle not only in Traffic Officer training scenarios, but also for first-person driving experiences.

Some improvements in the performance testing of different terrain settings, used in the immersive environment that makes up the UK highways network, rounded out my week.

Check back next week for another exciting instalment of the hectic lives of the MXTreality team.