Educational VR molecules
Now that I've gained some experience with Virtual Reality and my astronomy app, I'm thinking educational software for VR could be a worthwhile field for future projects. So I've started tossing ideas about, one of which involves playing with molecules in a VR environment.
Do you recognize this? It's aspirin. Visualizing these structures in VR would be way more revealing than conventional 3D-on-2D-screen... so far, it's just fun to toy around with my molecular model set :)
Venturing into social VR with Pocket Observatory!
The past few weeks I've been working away on a really exciting feature for the upcoming Gear VR version of Pocket Observatory: You will be able to invite a friend (on the Oculus platform) and start a voice chat beneath the stars! GPS coordinates are exchanged between the app instances, so players can visit each other's GPS locations. This is currently under review, and will hopefully be up in a few weeks in the Oculus Store.
To my knowledge, this is the very first social VR astronomy app ever! I've been thinking about this for quite a while during initial development, but didn't realize how easy it would be to integrate using the Oculus platform SDK. Mind you, setting up peer-to-peer networking can still be nerve-wrecking, given the unreliable nature of network communication, but still... managed to pull this off in just a few weeks. Happy!
Check out the updated page at https://pocketobservatory.com for the details. Here's a screenshot of the chat UI: (thinking about avatars and a shared space experience, too, but that's for later.)
Pocket Observatory for Google Cardboard
Just finished and submitted the iPhone / Google Cardboard version of Pocket Observatory! It really paid off to use Unity - porting from Android with the Oculus SDK to iPhone with GoogleVR turned out to be really easy.
Here are the quirks I encountered, might be useful to know if you're embarking on a similar project:
- In Gear VR, system messages (e.g., asking for permissions) are displayed properly and can be confirmed while you're in VR. On the iPhone, a standard system dialog pops up. To deal with location service permissions, I trigger the message from within a special startup scene, before entering VR mode in the main scene.
- Texture compression support has to be adjusted with the platform. On the iPhone, compression defaults to PVRTC, which requires square textures. The Unity importer stretches non-square textures to make them compressible with PVRTC. This results in awful artifacts, so I had to go over the compressions options for all of my (non-square) textures.
- Make sure the text for camera use permission is set in the iOS player settings - in GoogleVR, there is a UI button to allow the user to switch viewers. This will activate the phone's camera in order to scan the QR code on the viewer. Not setting the text will result in an app crash.
- Unfortunately, the Cardboard app doesn't run in the simulator - there is no suitable architecture of the gvr library, so the app crashes at startup. I guess it would be possible to build the library from source, but haven't tried that yet.
Visit https://pocketobservatory.com for details regarding app features and release plans!
Pocket Observatory: wrapping up
Haven't posted as many updates here as planned, because I was terribly busy finishing implementation. But I have started
- an Instagram channel (@pocketobservatory)
- and a Tumblr blog, just to share the IG posts to the web: pocketobservatory.tumblr.com
Now it's all about finishing materials for submission to the Oculus store, and setting up a landing page, etc. Coming soon!