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Concept


The Original VR Concept

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Concept


The Original VR Concept

 

Oculus Launch Pad is a pilot program for promising VR creators. In May, they selected a total of 100 participants to envision the future of VR.

The plan was that they provide you with the essentials, and you go to town building your dream demo, and that’s just what I did.

Liz Rowley here, looking a little caught off guard, was my co-partner at the SF VR Hackathon in March and companion at Bootcamp too! Check out her VR production studio.

Liz Rowley here, looking a little caught off guard, was my co-partner at the SF VR Hackathon in March and companion at Bootcamp too! Check out her VR production studio.

I knew that VR for Good is a space that I most definitely want to be in and that I need(ed) to acquire new skills in order to make the level of impact that I want. 

That’s where Moki’s adventures comes in. Moki’s Adventures is the working title for what is now, officially, my first VR project.

I originally wanted to develop a game for kids of all ages (in other words, grown ups who never grow up). I was inspired by games like Toca Boca’s Nature and wanted to allow people to create worlds of their own in VR. 

I knew that kind of programming skill was far beyond my breadth and that I needed to scale down the idea as much as possible if I was going to learn how to create anything in VR.

So I started developing a concept where a player could select a world and learn about the local inhabitants (endangered species to be specific) and their native environment through interacting with it. I planned on learning how to animate and build in more user interaction, but instead spent the majority of my time learning how to design the environment in Blender and Unity. So the idea had to become even simpler.

Eventually the demo started to grow legs, more like palm trees, and I found that there is so much more at work when designing a User Experience in a space like this.

Over the course of the Summer, as the build progressed I found grown ups had a harder time “getting it” than kids did. Not sure what to make of that until I do more testing.

In the end, my VR Demo is about gently immersing yourself in a world you don’t normally get to be a part of – where you can learn and become a better version of you.

Naturally it’s about learning new facts, but ultimately it should tap into your inherent love and appreciation for animals – animals who need to be heard. Animals who are in jeopardy, and need us to wake up and see what a beautiful gift they are. Animals who inspire you to make a positive difference.

The product designer in me wants to build a whole entire digital platform where you could experience any number of these “episodes” (each dedicated to a specific ecosystem), and be able to continue learning and interacting with these worlds online – connecting with other individuals who feel just as passionate about these wondrous creatures.

There is also a side of me who would love to develop this only for Cancer patients who just need a space to get away to – they could have two different kinds of modes depending on how much they need to be entertained versus wanting to influence and interact with the scene as much as they want.

I could see individuals, groups and organizations working together to make a difference via these VR experiences. For simplicity and accesibility’s sake though, it could be through a website like www.mokisadventures.com where people could learn even more about animals and their native environments, and ways they are in need of help. There could be 360 and interactive content where they could  discover stories of animal rescues and conservation achievements in real-time. It could be a community where people could even share their stories out in the wild, in the field or even perhaps how they have done something to create more awareness from the comfort of their home.

This book has been my bible this Summer! Full of ways people can help Sea Turtles with little to no resources.

This book has been my bible this Summer! Full of ways people can help Sea Turtles with little to no resources.

After creating this VR Demo, and the experience I have had in the process, I fully believe that VR will be a remarkable tool for storytelling and even more powerful for education for all.

As the most immersive experience platform I can think of, VR taps into our senses and helps us see things we take for granted everyday. It makes us even more aware of our presence and connection to our surroundings and others.  What better medium is there than VR to help capture, share and educate everyone about the wonders of the world we live in? 

 
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Process


Learn. Do. Share. Repeat.

Process


Learn. Do. Share. Repeat.

 

The Beginning

 

Oculus hosted a day-long bootcamp full of inspiring speakers and experts – was the best possible crash course in VR I could have ever imagined!

 
 

Amy sent us all the information we needed to kick our projects off and share them on our own Oculus Developer forum!

If only I knew what I was going to build....

 
 
 

So I went back to my Bootcamp notes, took time to really absorb them and shared as much as I could via my blog.

But still didn’t have a clue as to what I was building – nor how.

 
 

Met up with these two amazingly talented ladies, also in Launch Pad, Susan Weeks and Jewel Lim.

 
 
 

This weeks’ recipe was 9 parts inspiration to 1 part perspiration, but that 1 part showed me just how I could design VR for good. 

 
Design research expands the mind, opens eyes and helps you connect dots you may not have seen before.
 

My first developer post, and one of my first blog posts ever. 

 
I made the decision that the most vital part of this process would be the growth and transformation I would undergo, so I might as well document the journey as much as I could.

An added bonus would be to share the process so that others might come to appreciate, understand or even join the VR revolution!
 
 

Hit a wall trying to learn VR in Unity

 
Key take-away: if you find you are stuck, you might be doing the wrong tutorial – let it go and go find the right one!
 
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Completed a bunch of programming tutorials, like Unity’s Roll-a-ball. Made a Tools & Tutorial-tracker which was the go-to doc.

 
 

Studied the art of game design thanks to Shayna Moon’s suggestion: Youtorials by Extra Credits.

 
The goal is to get the player engaged and change the way they think about the world. Make them believe the world is a living thing.
 

The Extra Credits clips were super helpful and convinced me of just how important it is to start small in order to make solid strides. 

 
 
 

Despite getting the hang of C#, I quickly discovered that I really did need to start learning Blender.

 
 

Preliminary exercise in understanding the User context and needs (for Cancer patients). 

 
Even though I would ideally start developing for as large of an audience as possible given how new VR is – I would love to design “gentle VR” for those who really need a legitimate escape.
 

Got my long-term User Experience vision, framework and goals captured and solidified for later development.

 
 

Got first Demo Flow drafted.

 
Unfortunately the level of skill required to go this route was just out of reach for purposes of this demo deadline, but I’m not giving up!
 

Did some solid research on vulnerable and endangered species, trying to start honing in on a geographical context.

 
 
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Lots of project planning and management – best bit was designing my first 3D low poly animal and island thanks to Manuel Graphics’ tutorials like this one.

 
 
 

Solid week of low-poly, VR/mobile game design research and blender tutorials. Above is my updated Demo Flow.

 
 

Made these color palettes so that  when I was doing tutorials in Blender I already had a good color scheme on hand.

 
 
 

Got a low-poly look going for Moki’s Adventures’ branding. This was my first complete low-poly scene made thanks to Blender and Manuel Graphics’ Tutorial.

 
 

My second attempt to design Moki in 3D – then my daughter took a look and said carefully, ‘He looks like the Android dude.’

 
Feedback is like vegetables – ‘You don’t have to like it, you just have to eat it.’
— My 9 year old
 

Moodboards helped me understand the world I wanted to create and how I could help bring people closer to Nature in a new way.

 
 

They also helped identify flow, assets, user interaction – not to mention storyline. If you just said “Well duh!” then you haven’t tried designing an experience without frames or borders.

 
 

Feeling more confident after seeing the Google VR samples from Github. Thanks you Google.

 
 

Specifying where things will happen according to the Demo Flow.

 
 
 

Imported and tested my first iteration of Turtle Island into Unity – finally!

 
 

This was an invaluable document for prioritizing necessary assets.

 
 

My handy asset wish-list and accounting of all assets I have or will need to purchase.

 
 
 

My workspace while on vacation in tiny cottage on the south east side of Gotland, Sweden

 
 

Even though Turtle Island is a real place (Ko Tao, Thailand), I took some creative liberty.

 
 
 

I highly recommend digging into Oculus’ Sample Framework for Unity 5

 
 
 

Approaching Take-off...

 

As the Teleporters and Info-cards finally accomplished what they were meant to do, it became clear that the overall flow felt like it was actually leading up to something bigger – something like a 360° Video of a Sea Turtle underwater! 

So for purposes of the final demo, I chose to use a video that is purely for purposes of demonstration and not in any way meant to be misused or represented. I obviously want to evangelize VR, and celebrate the possibilities. 

I personally feel underwater scenes are best experienced when the camera is absolutely still and the Viewer does not feel like they are moving in any way, but can see the life around them.

Unfortunately due to time constraints this had the best snippet I could find – again, only to help prove the overall demo concept of how VR can bring us closer to Nature.  

Visit Hamilton Island in 360˚ Virtual Reality with Qantas
The scene shown in my demo is from around 3:38 to 4:07.

 
 
 
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Demo


VR Demo 1.0

Demo


VR Demo 1.0

 

Below is my latest, but not final Demo of Moki’s Adventures in video format. The actual VR demo is best experienced with the apk file on a Samsung Galaxy S6 or better and a GearVR headset. 

You can download the stripped down Unity build on GitHub, but none of the assets I purchased are included – so it’s only worth checking out the scripts. 

Note, for purposes of the demo, all Moki related branding or character development is out of scope. The key here is to develop the core proof-of-concept and identify how VR can be used to help people learn about the value of Nature – and more importantly endangered species. I imagine a good use case being in schools, but anyone and everyone should really consider giving it a try!

 

All materials, other than the 360° footage, in the demo are original, purchased, open-sourced or royalty-free. All images were provided by the folks at unsplash.com

 
 
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Plan


Vision and Timeline

Plan


Vision and Timeline

 

My plan is to continue to grow as a VR Designer, and learn more about how VR can be used to make a world of difference. 

Just in the short, but intense time I’ve spent building this demo, the level of reward far outweighs the painfully steep learning curve. I’m hooked and there is no going back.

Technical skills I intend to pursue with gusto will be primarily around 3D and Audio, but Unity is a must. 

I want to continue working in Blender, if not learn Maya or Cinema4d. Specific 3D areas I want to learn more of include modeling (environments and characters), rigging, UV mapping and lighting.

An area I am extremely keen to learn about is atmospheric design (combining audio, visuals, ”architecture of space” and user context). I also want to explore how content is revealed and interacted with in the most intuitive and rewarding way possible. Basically taking my Design/UX background and going fully immersive.

In terms of Timeline, my husband and I feel that the rest of the fall should round off my VR DIY-education nicely and then it will be time to join a team of VR fanatics like myself – if not sooner given the right opportunity.

 
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Scholarship


Funding

Scholarship


Funding

 

I’m going to be completely frank – I am not seeking a scholarship funds. I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity Oculus has given me, especially all the time and support they and all my fellow Launch Pad members have given me. That alone has been just the platform I needed to fall in love with VR and make the decision to join the VR revolution for good (pun intended). 

I am submitting my work to properly share back my progress and vision for VR in education. Perhaps this demo can provide Oculus and other VR creators (or creator-wanna-be-s) with a solid case for VR Education in the future.

 
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Credits


My Heroes

Credits


My Heroes

 

Oculus

I want to say a very special thank you to Amy Thole and the Oculus Team behind her. This has been a total dream come true, unlike any other challenge I’ve ever known. I can’t tell you how incredibly indebted I am to you for this opportunity and this absolutely phenomenal experience. I will treasure this Summer and hope to spread all the VR love I can in your honor.
 

My Husband

Without the love, support, encouragement and patience, I would not have been able to have grown in the leaps and bounds as I have done over these past 10 solid weeks. Thank you for being there, for caring and most of all believing in me.


Rachel B.

A special thanks goes to the Woman behind me, Rachel. She has lovingly cared for my two munchkins for sometime now – but has truly been there for like a rock for us through this crazy time. I can’t tell you how grateful we are for having you in our lives!


Friends, Family & Fans

A huge thanks goes out to all my dear friends, colleagues, family and fans online who have been there for me, encouraged me and given me the inspiration to give this huge leap of faith a chance! 


Oculus Launch Pad Fellows

We are 100 brave, passionate, dedicated and visionary individuals who came together this summer and proved just what courage looks like. I can’t tell you how fortunate I am to have been a part of this group and to learn from you all. I have been truly humbled by this experience, and hope that we can continue our work, and together, continue to shape the world of VR for good!