Our group members had never used Oculus Rift or any VR headset before, so we were very interested in exploring virtual reality with the cool hardware provided. We bounced a couple ideas off of each other while we brainstormed and settled on creating an educational VR application to teach users more about the scale and mechanisms of our solar system.
What it does
VR Planetarium puts the user onboard a ship similar to Cosmos's Ship of The Imagination, in which physical laws such as the speed of light are transcended for the sake of intellectual exploration.
How we built it
Our tech stack was composed of Unity3D, .NET, C#, and Oculus Rift's API. We also used both Git and a Git-like collaborative tool that is built into Unity3D simply called "collab". We were all new to C# and had no experience with Unity3D, which made it very rewarding to end with a final product.
Challenges we ran into
We had some difficulties in finding a good workflow for debugging, as we came across many old tutorials or forms of documentation. To make matters worse, some iterations that worked fine in the local debugger didn't function in any way in the final Oculus Rift application. Our workflow naturally became more efficient but it was still difficult to guarantee that certain features would port to the final VR application before actually building and testing it.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
We're proud of building a functioning application as a result of rapidly learning how to work with design in Unity3D, as well as appending code to objects with C#. We were also able to simultaneously learn more about the solar system by researching the relative sizes and orbital radii. We were also able to accept input from a controller to navigate the camera around the VR Planetarium around 3 axes.
What we learned
Besides working with a tech stack that was entirely new to us, our team learned how to do software development as a group and established a good workflow by the end of the Hackathon. We also learned how much red bull our bodies could handle (>400mg of caffeine).
What's next for VR Planetarium
One recommendation that we've received from many people so far is improving the flow of the controls. Our current version simply allows the user to move along each of the three axes at right angles, without allowing for rotation of the spaceship. This would be the number one thing we would improve. We would also like to add information about each planet that could appear to the user as they approach the planet.
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