On August 22nd MI3D spent the evening exploring the capabilities of Treefort VR & Snow Monster Studios in Grand Rapids, MI. The space is a collaborative workspace where developers have access to the site 24/7 via an access card. The space is made up of animators, illustrators, VR developers, prop-makers and game developers. Treefort VR obviously works on the VR projects whereas Snow Monster Studios focuses on music videos, animated shorts and is currently working on a horror movie.
There are essentially 2 types of “virtual reality” tech out in the marketplace right now. The first being the traditional VR where you put a headset on and are immersed into the artificially generated world. The second is called “augmented reality” and this combines the virtual world and the real world. Google Glass was an experimental product you wore like glasses that acted like a HUD (heads up display) over your environment. Microsoft’s Hololens has been shown to allow you to play Minecraft in your own living room. Then there are tons of simple versions that even work on your phone! We all remember when Pokemon Go released and sent millions of people out in the real world to catch digital monsters!
There are different types of VR out there in the marketplace right now so let’s break down some of the tech! Some use outside-in tracking and some use inside-out. Outside-in tracking is performed by external devices monitoring the headset and accessories. Right now this is the most accurate form of VR with low latency in signal. The negative of this type is that with some of the setups you need a lot of room and if the sensors/cameras lose you your immersion experience can be destroyed. The other type of tracking is inside-out. This puts the sensors/cameras on the device itself and it looks outwards and processes environmental data. There may or may not be tracking markers placed throughout the room to assist the headset with triangulation. Inside-out tracking allows you to be free! You are not necessarily tethered to stay within a confined region. In order to perform all computing needed for this type of sensing the headset has to have a lot more computing power (so it will be larger and more expensive). This version of tracking is still “up and coming” so it will be exciting to see how it progresses!
Each of the virtual reality headsets all use their own controllers to allow users to move throughout the virtual worlds but there are companies out there developing what is called “haptic technology.” Imagine you’re in a first person shooter and you get shot, with traditional games and VR tech your controller might vibrate. Now imagine you’re wearing a suit and you get hit and you can feel it in the exact spot on the suit! That is essentially what our future could have in store for us with haptic feedback technology.
When most people think of VR tech they only can picture its use for gaming and perhaps education but the advocates for the technology are trying to make is useful in many more industries! Treefort worked with a local hospital to create an environment with an MRI that would allow patients with a fear towards using one to help overcome their fears. This is huge! This meetup showed how this technology is moving past video gaming applications to really help to change the world around us! Imagine a construction company being able to give virtual tours of their buildings with a VR headset! I recently talked with another local VR developer, Externa CGI, that is allowing manufacturing customers to walk around their assembly lines without having anything built!
Check out their weekly meetup on Saturdays if you’re looking to try it and learn more!
Next meeting is:
No meeting in September!
Check our social media/website for Oct, Nov, and Dec!