Acquiring and practicing hardware skills can be expensive and time consuming without the tools and supervising of a skilled mentor. This might discourage people that wishes to develop skills on robotics, electronics, woodworking, etc. This is also practical in teaching how to put together parts of or how to fly a TEAL drone, or could be useful in teaching you useful hardware/job skills to make you a better applicant on Indeed.
A virtual reality environment augmented with a Leap Motion sensor would be ideal to teach mini-workshops on hardware skills immersing the user in a virtual hands-on experience.
What it does
University VR emulates in virtual reality real tools and components and provides the users a virtual assistant that guides them through every single step of their hardware project. Amazon Echo is integrated on the platform to real-time shopping in real-time for the exact same tools and components used in the virtual environment.
How we built it
The hack runs on Unreal Engine 4 integrated with leap-motion. The current part list of available components is stored on a web server that can be accessed through Amazon Echo via a custom Alexa Skill and email services supported by Spark Spot. Our website was designed following Amazon Web Services tutorial on WordPress.
Challenges we ran into
The main challenge faced was to enable Unreal Engine, Oculus VR, and Leap Motion up and running. It took us the whole afternoon/evening of the first day to just get the software up and running correctly. We then found out however that Oculus had reduced compatibility and none of the hardware available in the MLH lab would be able to run the VR experience. So we made the decision to scrap the VR component for now and to focus on only using a leap motion with unreal as a proof of concept.
The second main challenge faced was to manipulate objects inside Unreal Engine during the play mode using Leap Motion. With our team lacking a background in Animation, developing a feedback system when physical collisions happen became a hurdle. The authors underestimated the time required to leverage these skills and realized that our idea would be impossible to implement in 24 hours.. This led to the team decision of not developing the rest of the project right after 3AM of Saturday.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
The authors are proud of the team effort and courage to develop this platform without directly knowledge of the main software components involved.
What we learned
The different platforms utilized during the development phase led the authors to acquire basic knowledge on Unreal Engine to develop virtual reality applications, integrate Leap Motion to future projects, develop Amazon Echo applications (Alexa Skills) and interface with Amazon Web Services using Lambda functions, and practice knowledge of C++, Python, and HTML.
What's next for University VR
The authors plan to still develop the platform focusing on a robotics teaching module and release an open-sourced, free version, on Steam.
If you are interested on the project and want to know more about it, please visit our website: http://universityvr.net/