Last Tuesday I attended the USC GamePipe Lab’s semi-annual Demo Day. The USC GamePipe Laboratory’s mission is research, development and education on technologies and design for the future of interactive games and their application – from developing the supporting technologies for increasing the complexity and innovation in produced games, to developing serious and entertainment games for government and corporate sponsors. Participants in game development in the lab include students from the School of Cinematic Arts Interactive Media Division and students from the Viterbi School of Engineering’s Computer Science Department. Demo Day is when students show off games built in the laboratory in the last semester.
This was my fourth time attending Demo Day, and as always, I was very impressed with the creativity and technical quality of the games developed by the student teams. This semester my favorite presentation was Project Holodeck. Project Holodeck is a virtual reality platform built with consumer facing technology, cutting-edge custom software, and creatively integrated peripherals. The goal of Project Holodeck is to bring 360-degree full-body virtual reality out of the research lab and into a fun, accessible consumer gaming platform.
The Holodeck system combines accurate head tracking, limited body tracking and simple button inputs in a large 3D space with full 360 degrees of movement. This space combines vehicular locomotion with natural movement in a play space. This way, players can move and interact in a personal “micro” space while also flying and exploring in vast “macro” space. The current hardware design of the Holodeck system uses the Oculus Rift for head mounted video feedback, the Playstation Move optical system for head tracking, and the Razer Hydra magnetic system for limited body tracking.
The Oculus RIFT headset is an affordable high-FOV head-mounted display. Each of these VR headsets utilize two specifically sized and tuned lenses to amplify a 1280×800 resolution screen into two oculi. Players can see a stereoscopic 3D image with a 90-degree horizontal FOV and 105-degree vertical FOV. This isn’t like watching a floating television – this is true immersion in a virtual world with simulated peripheral vision!
The Playstation Move system is used to provide head tracking data that can fed into the Oculus Rift. The Playstation Eye camera has a 75 degree horizontal field of view and a 56 degree vertical field of view. By tracking a Playstation Move wand, this provides a rather large playspace to work with. In addition, the Sixense Razer Hydra gives fast and accurate six-axis tracking along with buttons and analog sticks. When combined, these systems allows for a realistic 3D space that the user can freely move around in and interact with.
The students have developed a video game called Wild Skies, developed in Unity 3D, to show off the room’s capabilities. In Wild Skies, two players play as two children, Zendair and Serai. They must learn to pilot their father’s nuclear-powered airship through an exotic world of floating islands and dangerous storms, while fending off religious fanatics, oppressive governments, and vicious pirates to protect their family.
Player movements in real-life are accurately translated and represented in game world, allowing the players to:
- Perform Real Actions: Pull swords from your back and guns from your hip. Shoot and swashbuckle invading pirates off your deck.
- Explore a Vast World: Pilot a flying airship through the skies. Climb through clouds, nose-dive into caverns, and battle enemy ships with cannons and turrets.
- Virtual Reality with Motion Control: Motion tracking in a full three dimensional play zone, combined with peripheral vision in the Oculus Rift, and deep narrative and engaging interactions, provide a lifelike virtual experience like never before.
Here is a video of Project Holodeck’s presentation at Demo Day: