In part 1, I took you through the whole process, from the concept sketches to the delivery of a virtual world filled with giants and dragons. We learned a lot, as this was our first time delivering a project like this. Below, you’ll find some of the things that we learned throughout and on the day; hopefully, you will find them useful for a future project.
Although the day was a success, it is not unreasonable to think that some things did not go as expected. We had to deal with them as they cropped up, but in a way, we were glad they did; we were able to learn from them for the next time.
Here are my top tips and takeaways around running this type of project.
1. Take as much time as you can.
We didn’t have much time to build DragonSlumber. It was tight; we had to build a new world with a story to compliment it, while also organising the space, equipment and marketing. If you are doing or are going to do anything like this, take as much time as you can to build the best experience possible. We were able to do so much in a short space of time, thanks to a great team!
2. Equipment scalability
For the event we set out to use the Samsung Odyssey headsets with the HP Z Backpack PCs. Individually, these pieces are expensive, so if we wanted to make this event any bigger, we would be forced to scale at a very high cost. Kainos have 2 backpacks and 4 Odysseys, while Digital Catapult at the Immersive Lab NI let us borrow both of their backpacks. This brought us to a total of 4 (backpacks and headsets), however, to be safe we went with 2 running backpacks.
The HP machines run off of 2 external batteries to keep them running for around 2 hours with constant play time. With the 4 of them, we had to be smart in how we rotated the 8 batteries between 2 backpacks. We made it through the morning to roughly 2 PM where we had to be strict about rotations. Only once, did a machine shut down due to the lack of power which was thankfully less than we were expecting. We made it roughly 8 hours with the bare minimum, so I would suggest being safe rather than sorry.
3. Virtual Puppetry
In part 1, I talked about the chaperone puppet that we introduced; I’m not about to say that it didn’t work, it did. It worked too well. We found that children in particular were too focused on the fairy to be able to stop and completely enjoy the experience they were in. In some cases, the adults were the same; their reliance on a mixed reality guide had overwritten their curiosity and wonder.
This isn’t to say we wouldn’t do it again, we likely would, we would like to explore the opportunities that this new layer opens up in larger experiences. At the time it was the most appropriate option and it still allowed people to enjoy DragonSlumber and us, to control the pace of the experience.
On to SXSW.
SXSW is a yearly festival that showcases the latest in film, music and technology held in Austin, Texas. During this time the city is completely taken over by the festival. Everywhere has someone showing something as part of the festival; you can’t escape it’s grasp once you’re there.
Kainos travelled to SXSW as part of the great collection of companies that came from Northern Ireland. On Sunday 10th March, Invest NI and Digital Catapult hosted an Immersed in NI day at The Driskell hotel. Many companies from NI had the opportunity to put their work on display for the rest of the world to see.
We demoed DragonSlumber in The Driskell to give people in Austin, at the festival a chance to try it out. The reception was great, although we had to adapt the experience to suit the space, we made it work. Below is the space that we had to play with. Compared to the 15m x 12m space that we had in W5, this space was roughly 8m x 12m at its widest points.
We built a path building tool to compensate for this. We did not have the time, nor the opportunity to see the space in person until the day before. So, it made no sense to try and guess the required path design in Tilt Brush.
What was interesting and worth noting about this space, was the symmetrical nature of the room. In the image there is only one pillar, but what isn’t shown is an identical pillar on the other side. This played havoc with the Samsung’s Inside-Out tracking as it constantly caused our set chaperone bounds to teleport to the opposite pillar. It thought that the 3D world anchor (the other pillar) that it picked up during setup was on the other side of the room. We countered this by placing as many physical objects around the room as possible.
Although there were slight complications, we delivered a good demo to many people taking part in the festival, and the reception of the experience was great.
The entire development and delivery of DragonSlumber was a very rewarding experience for everyone involved. The time that we allowed ourselves didn’t afford us the option to think it was going to play out as well as it did. The main thing is that the children seemed to all enjoy it as much as we spent building it!
Thank you again to everyone involved!
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