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Mindshift VR - Sandra Cannon - Project Blog- Post One Intro

Level 4

A brief history on me. I was an architect and designed on CAD at
Skidmore, Owings and Merrill. I left architecture to study digital
content at the American Film Institute. In the 90s I worked for a first
of it's kind digital advertising agency and I was the account executive
for Silicon Graphics Inc. marketing the blue box and VRML. I became a
free range agent marketing all things related to VRML; hardware,
software and content. Since then I owned moderately successful stock
film and photography agency which I let die when I was fighting
Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. I won. Last year someone who knew me from VRML
days called me and said with all that I am now, surviving cancer, that I
needed to get back into VR and develop. So I do have an agenda, I want
to develop healing beautiful content for people who are house bound or
bound by illness. I do not want to be overtly medical, I just want to
develop delightful virtual reality that transports the mind for a
vacation of sorts for ANYONE. I believe that VR can replace pain
medications some day. In any event, I am down the road in developing a
title. My company is called Mindshift VR.

I am also an accomplished director and cinematographer. I am known for
filming marine and aerial film pieces. This past week I filmed aerial
footage for the Amazon show "Hand of God" using a red dragon in a
Cineflex. While I did come back to VR with producing Cinematic VR in
mind, I have found I really like the interactivity in VR with polygons. I
climbed Mount Everest in the HTC Vive and it changed my view point. We
are aiming to do mixed medium. I am interested in lidar technology,
photogrammetry and other ways of capturing reality. I am very interested
in the lytro immerge camera. (I am looking for projects)

now, right now, I am producing a non-secular mindfulness meditation VR
piece in the vein of meditation as proven useful by the medical
community for providing many health benefits. This first piece takes
place in a forest with a heavy level of detail.


Level 4
Mindshift VR - Post Two - Pain Points - June 20, 2016

My first world. Ok, so it is not. I mean I am not a liar, but it is not my first VR world. I am from the VRML days. The thing is, I never actually made any worlds myself the first time. I just gave the concept, directions and arranged the financing through sponsorships and alliances. I can actually claim to fame launching the first VRML ad banners with a team. They were for Pepsi, SGI and The Mars Rover.  I have designed some games and things, and well frankly, I have designed in 3D on CAD professionally as an architect, but this is my first world in Unity specifically for VR now.

So, I guess I should back up. For the bootcamp I got the idea that I should come with a project demo. I met someone who is truly talented in Unity, Hallie McConologue. I told her I needed to make a demo for bootcamp and I wanted to make one for mindful meditation. I told her basically what I have already told you. She thought that sounded fantastic and wanted to work on this. So we sat down and had an intense hackathon for a week straight doing 10 to 14 hour days . We both dropped our lives for a week to make the demo. She is a true veteran in building VR and I lucked out.

We are building the demo for meditation in Unity with a high level of
detail. I will say we have already had a few iterations. Because the world has
already reached a certain level at this point I am going to go back and
discuss some pain points. I am certain I will not be able to outline
them with quite the original pain.

 We started out experimenting with assets from the Unity store. I like the
assets at Speed Tree.  We had some gorgeous realistic California Sword ferns that made the world exquisitely lush but they took up too many polygons and bogged it down. We have experimented with beautiful grasses and flowers but in the end they take up too many polygons.

In the end Hallie modifies things or makes them herself custom. So we have some hero ferns now as points of interest scattered throughout the paths. We do have a lot of interesting ground cover and textures, but it is not dense redwood forest underbrush. We make trade offs. Lots of trade offs for performance, but maintained the beauty with other beautiful and interesting additions.

We have tried many trees and have already been down the road of solving issues and bugs with the level of detail we wanted to create.  First we tried stores from the Unity store but they "billboarded weirdly". So we fixed the rotational billboarding bug. But then we really did not like the broad leaf bug. Not at all. So we tried a variety of trees. The thing is none of the asset stores have any redwoods, or none we liked. So again, in the end Hallie made custom trees.

There is a beautiful creek running through the environment and so I want to tell you about water. We had a vision board for the look and feel of the project. It included the artist "Maxfield Parish" for his use of light particularly on water. We found beautiful Maxfield Parish reflecting water, but it hogged all the polygons and blew the performance so we settled on some different water. It is beautiful. It is not as deep, but it moves and reflects and is peaceful. If I never told you about the beautiful water we nixed, you would simply like this water.

I wrote a script and recorded a talented voice over actor with an English accent for the meditation. I recorded it with Zune Hn4 digital microphone and chopped it up and exported it into mp4s. Hallie placed it in the world with positional triggers.

For music I licensed a song with binaural beats. It's and incredibly healing song specifically designed for relaxation and meditation. While this is not ambisonic sound, which I am eager to try both capturing and using, it is specifically designed for headphones. Binaural beats provide a rich 3D illusion.

We wanted a beautiful waterfall.  I am very keen on photogrammetry and reality capture. We like the work of which is very immersive and has a great level of interactivity. In the end, we will use more photogrammetry, but for now we tried buying some photogrammetry assets. Let me warn you, they look great in the store, but the waterfall we purchased had no partical system. There was no there there.

We ended up with a beautiful waterfall with positional sound. We have noticed people really gravitate to the waterfall, so we are adding a few more. I personally love to go under the waterfall and look up at the water pouring down. The sound is great, the water looks real. It feels refreshing.

What really makes it more immersive is that Hallie added a particle system that looks like dandelion fluff. It breathes gently and moves on it is own. It is pretty magical.

We have worked on sky and added clouds and wind. Today Hallie put in god rays or lens flares that are relative to the sun and the user.

It is coming along. We have not worked on this consistently since bootcamp, but when we do work on it, we work for intense stretches.

In my opinion Virtual Reality is not a one man/woman show. It takes a team. It takes working together and exploring ideas and being willing to spend the time to do it right. We are both extremely passionate about doing our best and we hope to grow our team.

End of entry.
Future blog entries will focus on camera comfort mode, navigation and pattern language, gamification, testing and what we learn that works and what does not, and some on how VR lends itself for meditation. We will post a build for review this week. It will be for the DK2 or Rift on this first build. We will export a Gear VR version later in the month when we can do a full debug.

We call it "mindshift VR" and we aim to create vacations for the mind.