Let's face it, we've all been impressed by the VR projects that hackers can make in a weekend. We simply wanted to join in on the fun and do something unique and useful with it!
What it does
VRoom is a virtual reality Drivers Ed simulator that is designed to help potential drivers get a feel for the road before they ever sit behind a real wheel. Its focus is mainly on building muscle memory and following the rules of the road. We've worked very hard to simulate the experience of being behind the wheel. We also added features to emphasize some of the subtle techniques that a good driver should know.
How we built it
We used the Unity game engine to build a world where traffic rules are enforced and good driving practices are encouraged. We used the Oculus Rift DK2's eye tracking capabilities to check where the driver is looking. For controlling the car, an Xbox 360 controller was used. We wanted to use a steering wheel, but didn't have one. For acceleration and braking, we used a Makey Makey to turn Rock Band pedals into triggers.
Challenges we ran into
Road traffic is a complex thing. We struggled with implementing a traffic system that felt real within the 24 hour time constraint. Getting the rear view mirrors to show accurate and useful information was another major challenge and milestone for us.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
We are very proud of the fact that we were able to use the technologies that we did, and integrate them into a working project in 24 hours. The way we see it, we are demonstrating the practicality of virtual reality as an educational tool. VR is still in its early stages. As such, it is primarily used as a (rather expensive) recreational tool. We think of VRoom as a legitimate effort to bring virtual reality into the realm of education.
What we learned
From a technical standpoint, there is a lot more going on at any given point on the streets than one would guess. We saw the extent of this complexity more clearly as we developed the simulation. The power of virtual reality as a tool for simulating real world situations comes naturally with its inherent qualities.
What's next for VRoom
In the interest of developing the correct muscle memory, the next step, first and foremost, is to switch to a steering wheel. While the pedals feel very real, an Xbox controller doesn't exactly mirror the feeling of being behind the wheel very accurately. Other features that are important to us:
- Traffic that works and makes sense.
- People. Pedestrians bring life to the simulation and make the consequences of our actions feel more real.
- A larger variety of roads. We want to cover the entire driving experience, so this is important.
- Complete coverage of traffic rules.
- Little tidbits like seatbelts and honking.