Everyone on the team was passionate about visualization, especially its potential in virtual reality. We were deciding on what data set to use and Wikipedia data seemed to be the most generalized and interesting, considering the variety and immense size of its data set.
What it does
Above all else, Wikiverse is an experience for the user. After entering in any keyword and putting on the Oculus Rift, the user enters into a galactic virtual environment. Nodes of Wikipedia page titles appear in clusters in every direction, forming a constellation of knowledge, surrounded by atmospheric music from Interstellar and a jarring voiceover from a text-to-speech program.
How we built it
We built a server using node.js to query the Wikipedia API by keyword, extracting the title, text, and a randomized array of four links for every page. We then passed the resulting json data to our Unity project, where we generated nodes for each link page title received. This process continues, generating a spherical web of links to wikipedia pages. The lines are drawn in slow animation for effect and to show that links are unidirectional. Background music, visual effects and text-to-speech were implemented using Unity and the espeak API.
Challenges we ran into
There were a lot of challenges with integrating with the Oculus since no one on the team had made any VR projects before. Another challenge was figuring out the best way to make a model that was visually appealing as well as informative. Wikipedia had lots of information we could use to build our map, but finding a balance between overwhelming and impressing the user proved to be difficult and took trial and errors. We ran into a lot of problems with quaternions and spherical coordinates, as well as texture mapping and getting the line renderer to display all the lines.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
Surprisingly, we had our project in a relatively "finished" state the night before this hackathon ended. Of course, there are always improvements to be made and features to be added, but we were really satisfied with the effect we achieved. When everything came together, we were pleasantly surprised by how truly immersive our project turned out to be.
What we learned
None of us really had any experience in creating something in VR, or using the Oculus Rift or Unity, so the entire process was a great learning experience!
What's next for Wikiverse
Unfortunately, none of us actually possess Oculus Rift, so it would be difficult to develop this project further (unless we happened to procure some in the near future). However, we truly liked working on this project, and hope that we get a chance to work on it some more.