The inspiration came soon after CatHacks last year, after learning Wolfram there and scraping up a small and neat script, we went to work to finding a program that would have plenty of practical application, was creative, and something that would challenge us in an area of computer science we were unfamiliar with. After several lunch conversations we began to iron out VReadmill, as an XC runner in high school I connected with the idea, runners in general really dislike tracks and treadmills compared to a run outdoors, and so the marketability has great prospects once the project is ironed out.
The VReadmill simulates a VR environment essentially on a moving track, you wear the headset while on the treadmill and an outdoors and you run in a visually stimulating atmosphere rather than staring down at the treadmill interface for an hour.
We decided to use Google Cardboard because Kris already had a compatible headset and it was well within our means costwise for a prototype. Using Unity and a series of Android SDK, we developed a moving track with a demo scenery on a forest path. Because Cardboard lacks avenue for user input, we were unable to really adjust the speed in a way that would be comfortable for the user while exercising, but we have some ideas to work around this if the project was to be developed further.
The biggest challenge was learning how to use Unity and working around the clutter of software involved in developing the app, Kris coded almost everything and I worked on implementing it to the android device, which was more time consuming than either of us expected. I also had to work a 10 hour shift completely within the time frame of Cathacks, and we had a lot of difficulty ironing out the conceptual side of the project, how to circumvent safety issues, iron out the project between Kris's vision and my own experience as a runner, and how we wanted to approach it between each of our experience in coding (which are largely in different areas).
Neither of us had ever used a VR device before yesterday, and to develop an app on our own and see it on VR felt amazing. Cardboard isn't perfect but with a tiny bit of suspension of disbelief it actually does feel sort of real.
We learned a lot about phone development, something neither of us have any experience doing, and about how VR works. This year was much more organized than last year(even though we had a lot of fun then) so we had to really work through the development of this concept over a long period of time.
If the program garners any interest, we already have ideas for user-side adjustments for speed and slope (both of which we were almost ready to implement by the deadline but fell a little short), and we need to find some creative solutions to solve the obvious safety issues with the product, which we think can be feasible. Implementing this with a real treadmill will be the next step, we have 2 ideas for how we might do this but that's a little farther out. I honestly believe in the potential that this program has, and believe me that I was the first to say anything about the number of safety concerns involved.