We had 48 hours for the hackathon so there are many features we will have to implement and remove. We used the SpatialOS Game Developer Kit Example Project (https://documentation.improbable.io/gdk-for-unreal/docs/sample-projects-example-project-introduction) to get off the ground quickly. SpatialOS is a networking tool that allows large multiplayer games. It takes time to remove features (which we may need in the future - that is the ability determine if a user clicked on an object).
Social distancing has plunged the lives of many white-collar workers into loneliness and isolation. Unmet social needs lead to depression and anxiety. According to a study from the National Institute of Health, global populations have a 26-29% increased likelihood of dying due to these factors.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
While around 66% of white-collar workers can work remotely at least once a week, blue-collar workers are having a tougher time due to sudden unemployment and the need to transition to online remote work. According to the UN and the International Labor Organization, 195 million jobs worldwide will be lost with more yet to come as the recession continues.
Worse still are the problems in the developing world, where social distancing is an unimaginable privilege. 61% of the global economy - 2 billion people - must continue to support themselves despite the threat to their lives. This only contributes to problems in areas of high population density such as cities in India, the slums of Latin America, and even NYC, who have an urgent need to strengthen their healthcare systems.
The Social Construct is a non-profit online social environment where transactions from social interactions contribute to global relief efforts - it is a place where hanging out friends & strangers helps save the rest of the world.
What it does
The Social Construct is an open-world online social environment where people can hang out with friends or meet strangers while exploring. The main features include:
- open world map
- 2000+ players on same map to interact with each other
- Proximity voice chat
- Proximity Live Video Capture (Like video chat when you’re near people)
- Easily accessible (aiming for laptop hardware, people don't want huge downloads)
This technology has the potential to influence:
- School Life
- Social Life
- Work Life
How we built it
2020.03.31 Stephen proposed the idea of a social virtual world. Members of the team researched if there could be a need for a product like this by sharing the concept (with mixed reactions). We also looked into weather the technology to achieve our goals existed.
Last summer (2019) we had a team working on a concept project to replicate a dorm for our university so that people can take virtual tours. However, that team fell apart. We were able to salvage the outline of the first floor of a dorm at our university from the project.
At the start of the hackathon, we had:
- the SpatialOS GDK (https://documentation.improbable.io/gdk-for-unreal/docs/sample-projects-example-project-introduction)
- Outline of a dorm
Here are key things we did:
- From the Unreal Engine Market place we searched for free content to speed up development such as furniture and relevant environments like a house.
- We explored creating 3D models in Rhino and figured out how to import custom objects.
- Explored how to interact with objects
- Followed tutorials online on how to add features such as browser into the game
- Followed tutorials online on how to capture live video, how to play back video
- Followed tutorials on how to handle multiplayer sessions
- Followed several other tutorials I forget we touched
- Read documentation and forms for answers such as "How to replicate live video as a texture" so that we can have a live video sharing
- Purchased a $40.00 Voice Chat System from the Unreal Engine Store
- We used GitHub with Git LFS to version control the project
This is an
- Unreal engine and SpatialOS project
We also figured out our workflow.
Challenges we ran into
- Homework, we're University Students. Luis and Stephen wrote an email to professors that read in paraphrase "Can the homework be extended to Monday so that we can change the world?"
- Proximity VOIP audio. We bought a $40 Voice System to integrate into our project that's easy to integrate with local projects, but DIFFICULT for us to integrate with SpatialOS' dedicated server session system. We reached out to the developer of the VOIP integration system for assistance and he assisted over the course of a day.
- In Unreal Engine, assets created in one Versions of the software is not backwards compatible with other versions of the software. This made integration very VERY challenging.
- When we have version conflicts with binary files.... WE HAVE CONFLICTS!
- We're unfamiliar with a lot of the tools we've touched, we're not game developers, we're university students.
What we built
During the hackathon, the teammates divided up the work. We had 2 computer science majors and one business major working on the prototype, an architecture student who contributed to developing assets, and a systems engineer who explored the business case.
We made an Unreal Engine Prototype with proximity voice and video so that when a user's avatar walks up to another person they will start sharing video which is a more natural interaction compared to in game chat and video conferencing alone. It also has a web browser to play games and stay in touch with the real world, and it has physical assets (a house and table) that people can interact with.
We also build a second prototype in SpatialOS to showcase the ability to host thousands of users in a dorm hall as a proof of concept of how we'll deploy the developed features in the future.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
We have the core parts of everything we set out to create. We just need more time to integrate everything together into fully functional prototype.
What we learned
What's next for Social Construct
The next steps are: 1) talking to initial users (for example our dorm communities) 2) talking to health organizations providing help for the crisis 3) researching ways for people to earn a living by providing their own services on the platform
If people keep coming back to it for social interactions and if we have support we'll continue the project.
We want people to experience all manners of locations, events, celebrations together to combat depression and anxiety.
Ideally, it will grow to have a virtual economy where people can order good and services (for example having coffee delivery in real life for a group of friends) where a portion of that transaction goes to relief organizations.
We hope that The Social Construct will help us adjust to the world as it changes