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The road ahead

What can you do now? What are the paths ahead? What to take away from this course?

It’s been an exciting 4 weeks for us. But for you, this journey is just getting started. Let’s check out a few paths that you can take.

Pillars of Autumn
By now, you should have a good grasp of what a VR experience looks like. You should also be able to put together simple examples using AFrame. One of the paths to take from here is to gain expertise in one of the pillars of virtual worlds. If you recall, we listed them in the first week:

  • Computer graphics
  • Sounds, sensing and AI
  • Input systems and interactions
  • User

During this course we focused on computer graphics a lot. This is because this pillar is ‘building’ pillar, on how or what to build. We also worked with sensing and input systems which are ‘infrastructure’, something we rely on. The mobile devices that displayed the VR web-apps provided gyroscope based orientation sensing and the touch input were all input systems. We also discussed interaction techniques for head-pose and mouse/touch inputs. In the background of all this, we always had the user as the focus, contributing to the ‘occupant’ pillar. The first path to take is to contribute to individual pillars as per your interest.

  • You could focus on the ‘building’ pillar and specialize in computer graphics: creating new algorithms or optimizing rendering. There are a large number of challenges to address here. You could also specialize in creating assets for use in virtual worlds.
  • You could also focus on the ‘infrastructure’ pillars: you can work towards creating new devices using novel combination of sensors and input systems, possibly making them cheap and accessible to all. You could also specialize as a sound engineer, designing the sound-focused experience.
  • Finally, you could focus on gaining expertise towards understanding the user’s wants and needs from a particular virtual world. This contributes towards the ‘occupant’ pillar. With virtual worlds becoming more commonplace, this is an exciting area of contribution, with opportunities to discover and design new interaction techniques and addressing domain-specific problems (like VR experiences for education).

All Under the Heavens
You may feel that the previous path is research-heavy and you would be right in thinking so. We would appreciate bright minds contributing to open challenges for the field. There’s another path which is more applied. The understanding you gain from the exploration of the pillars should be a good boost towards becoming a virtual world developer. Specifically, you could offer virtual world building services which can be deployed as VR (or even AR) web-apps. The ability to create VR experiences instead of standard web-pages could make your portfolio look even more interesting. One of the major consumers of VR content is gaming. This is another option on the development-centric path. You could develop VR/AR games using this course as a launchpad and then picking up additional skills related to game design.

Euclid’s Anvils
At the start of the course we mentioned that “we want you to focus on thinking about the what of the VR experience rather than how to implement”. Hence we chose to explore the concepts using AFrame as a lightweight framework. AFrame and similar WebXR compatible frameworks are powerful tools when mastered. At the same time, the industry standard for VR/AR development is rooted in Unity and Unreal Engine. These game engines have integrations with VR headsets (e.g. Oculus integration for Oculus devices). These tools can be extremely difficult to utilize for a beginner. As a next step, you could choose the path towards gaining expertise in one or both of these tools. There are other professional tools that help achieve specific objectives and expertise in any of these is also helpful. For example, if you wanted to create a fully articulated model of a snake for a game, then Blender would be one of the tools of choice.

Final Summit?
As you may have noticed, there are a variety of paths to take after this course. We encourage you to continue your journey into virtual worlds as best as you can. There are a few common things to remember irrespective of the path you take. Be clear about what objective your virtual world achieves and how it helps or benefits the user. Think like the user, trying to navigate and explore the world for the first time (make it recognizable) and also the nth time (eliminate redundant steps). Users and the hardware they use will be varied. Cater to experts as well as novices using low-end devices as well as high-end systems. Always design the experience with the user in mind, minimize complexity and maximize performance of your virtual world.

We wish you best luck and good tidings in your journey ahead.

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Construct a Virtual Reality Experience

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