What You Should Know to Start Working with Virtual Reality: NovaKitten Interview Part 3

The Virtual Reality industry is rapidly changing every few months, but beginners should not be afraid! There is so much potential and room in this market to grow and innovate! Elaina Woods of NovaKitten tells Clever Tech Digest some basic tools and things beginners should know.

NovaKitten Productions is an Austin based Virtual Reality and Film production company. Born out of a group of UT Austin Students, NovaKitten works on commercial and gaming VR projects, in addition to an array of other Film Projects. This small start up focuses on developing a fun learning-centric storytelling community and is pioneering immersive mediums and collaborative cross disciplinary projects.

Apartment1: A model of an apartment and one of NovaKitten's very first projects in Unreal.

Apartment1: A model of an apartment and one of NovaKitten's very first projects in Unreal.

What are the major restrictions of developing VR content, and what is your process to trouble shoot and problem solve around these challenges?

VR has quite a few restrictions that we as an industry are still figuring out. If you look on VR stores, you will see notes on various apps that say things like “comfortable” and “intense” because of the very real possibility of disorienting people and making them sick.

User interface design is also complicated, especially for gaze-activated apps. There are no corners of the screen to place buttons, so you need to get creative about how the user moves through the app. Finally, there is the problem with the length of time one can be in the headset. We were always told to sit back from the television and computer screen to help with eyestrain. Well, this is literally a screen several inches from your eyes.

As for troubleshooting, it comes down to testing it yourself. See how long you can stay in the headset and what makes you feel sick. A lot of the work comes down to doing something, testing it, and then redoing it until it finally feels smooth. If you want to speed up the process, learn a little about human perception. Try to trick the mind into believing in something that isn’t real.

Apartment1: A 3D model of an apartment and one of NovaKitten's very first projects in Unreal. Elaina was entertained by the thought of a cat that would follow you when you weren't looking, even through walls.  She didn't expect the viewers to react with so much shock.

Apartment1: A 3D model of an apartment and one of NovaKitten's very first projects in Unreal. Elaina was entertained by the thought of a cat that would follow you when you weren't looking, even through walls.  She didn't expect the viewers to react with so much shock.

How do you think haptic technology, and augmented reality will enhance immersive experiences? How do you envision these technologies integrating into everyday culture?

Haptic technology seems like a small, maybe unnecessary thing. However, so much of our world is felt rather than seen. Vibrating controllers have always been a large part of immersion in games and it helps create a strong illusion. Soon, we will have gloves that will allow greater control in the games, and later additions of resistance will make us feel as if we are truly holding an object.

AR is an exciting advancement for immersive media. Many are scrambling to come up with games and stories for it. I am more interested in the other opportunities. Imagine an art museum with an AR guided tour or a talk to text for the deaf. It will change many industries.

For the everyday person, we can have more helpful how-tos, virtual pets, and better ways of teaching our children.

The beginning of a short horror game set in the UT dorms.

The beginning of a short horror game set in the UT dorms.

Your company produces marketing content, games, and more. What applications and industries do you most enjoy working on? What direction would you like your company to grow?

My passion is in video games and immersive storytelling, so I would like for NovaKitten to continue in that path.  There will always be a place for VR in video games. I want to push the boundaries of what we know will work and experiment with new ways of thinking. Therefore, I am always looking for new and different projects for us to work on.

Besides video games, I love to work with educational apps. A personal project a few of us are working on involves bringing CT scanned animals and bones into a virtual museum so users can pick them up and look at them up close. I love the idea of rebuilding historical sites and introducing more hands-on learning for various fields. If NovaKitten could have a hand in reshaping education technology, I would be very proud of what I helped create.

The beginning of a short horror game set in the UT dorms.

The beginning of a short horror game set in the UT dorms.

For individuals just starting to work with VR, what hardware and software are must haves to produce quality work? Do you have any tricks of the trade you would like to share?

 

The Unreal Engine is an absolute must. It is free to use, looks gorgeous, and is easier than some of the other gaming engines. As for the actual 3D modeling, I use Maya, but it can be pricy. You also must own the device you are developing for. For phone apps, the Samsung Gear VR and Google Cardboard are the two major ones. For computer applications, I say stick with the Vive. However, the most important thing is a good computer. I would suggest building your own rather than purchasing one. It’s cheaper and upgradable for the future.

The biggest thing to remember is to SAVE OFTEN. These programs are amazing feats of human engineering, but they are not always the most reliable. And as tempting as it is to make games where the user must turn a lot, it can be annoying to constantly whip your head around or risk getting tangled in a cord. Finally, set out with a plan for a project. It doesn’t have to be very strict. Many of these programs are complex and intimidating when you first open them up and I have found it is a lot easier to learn when you know what you are trying to accomplish rather than getting bogged down with all the possibilities.

Meet Elaina Woods of NovaKitten. Thank you again for all your support! Want to send us a video, get involved, or let us know about projects you need help on? Email us at: novakittenproductions@gmail.com