We were inspired by our normal life. In those words we means the life we used to live before the coronavirus situation and with this all lock down situation. In this sense we tried to recreate the studying environment we used to study in, alone or in group.
What it does
Social distancing and teleworking due to the Coronavirus epidemic can be serious obstacles to our productivity. Many people are left without a proper work environment and have a hard time working with others. We propose a virtual environment specifically designed to encourage productivity and relaxation in response to this problem. Our project would consist in two main parts : work environments and recreation environments. A first work environment would be designed for individual work, and would focus on personal productivity. Our goal is to have an office-like relaxing environment. Our main focus would be the visual and auditive environment. A second work environment would focus on group productivity. A first goal, in addition to create a pleasing visual and auditive environment, would be to offer different features to facilitate group work : whiteboards, screen sharing inside the environment to reproduce a videoprojector …). A second goal would obviously be to make this environment collaborative and accesible to different remote users. Our recreation environments would mainly focus on social interactions.
How we built it
We used Unity as well as the Oculus Quest in order to arrive at a satisfactory prototype. We used many assets already available to facilitate the construction of the prototype. Thus far, we constructed several 3D environments using Unity. On one hand we focused to make the environment more interactive, by adding for example: -White boards users can draw on to share ideas in a graphic way.
- A "panic room" in which the user can let go of his stress by breaking props (physics aspects are finished we just need to build the environment). -Screen sharing, so it becomes easier to explain technical aspects (such as code !) (We're running into technical issues and we're missing a lot of documentation...)
In order to make the prototype more immersive and favourable to focusing, we worked on Post Processing effects, crafted animations for the user models and added home made music !
We also worked really hard on enabling the online experience as the main point of the project is to restore social links between people.
And finally, we made it all VR-compatible as we wanted it to feel more genuine and akin to real life interactions.
Challenges we ran into
The biggest challenge we faced was about the subject of having the possibility to host more than one person in the same room. The documentation that we found online was complicated to understand and above all it was very complicated to adapt it to what we wanted it to do. A week-end was way too short to figure everything out about this topic and to implement it. Camille basically tests everything, she managed to implement little things by changing little things from the model and making sure that it still works. She inspired herself from this web site : https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0360131506001989 and also from this pdf file : https://www.researchgate.net/publication/3828904_A_collaboration_support_technique_by_integrating_a_shared_virtual_reality_and_a_shared_augmented_reality
An other challenge was that we had to change and set up the rendering engine while keeping compatibility with the Oculus in order to improve performances and enable post processing to make our project prettier. Networking took 2 full days for us and proved to be especially hard to set up since documentation was scarse and enabling it for VR made it even harder.
Accomplishments that we are proud of
The port of the rendering engine. We had to dig deep into the rendering pipeline and understand how unity was behaving with VR to make it work.
What we learned
For most of us we discovered and learn about the software Unity. We also had to learn a bit of C# which we never dealt with before in our academic and working life. The fact to participating to an online hackaton being so far away from each other was also challenging. We had to adapt the way we could to every one rhythm and schedule. But we are all happy about what we managed to come out with.
What's next for A collaborative virtual environment for work and relaxation
The result of the project we are coming out with this week end should be the start of the next new Bachelor project for Camille Montemagni. Indeed with the EPFL being closed she was unable to continue what was originally planned. Regarding more of the project, it would be interesting to incorporate some screen sharing in the collaborative space and in the alone space some kind of virtual computer (screen sharing again and modelling of a keyboard). Letting the coding aside, it would be interesting to do some kind of research on how to make a studying space more relaxation, peaceful and favorable to productivity: color to put on wall, special items to change the atmosphere of the room, impactful music. On the more gaming side, we could in the future work on the fact to make the network more stable and integrate some avatars to improve the experience of working with our friends and colleagues in VR.