Update; Oculus Launch Pad 2017: Future of Farming

Everything is hierarchical in the brain. In VR design for users, my hypothesis is that this can be really helpful for setting the context. For example, at Virtually Live where the VR content is “Formula E Season 2 Highlights”, meaning the one donning the headset is able to watch races. I once proposed that we use the amazing UX of Realities.io to use an interactive model of Earth as the highest level of abstraction from the races (which occur all over the world). The user can spin the globe around and find a location to load in. The hierarchy written abstractly in this example is, Globe is a superset of Countries, Countries that of Cities, and Cities that of Places. I figured that this would be perfect for an electric motorsport championship series that travels to famous cities each month. We went with a carousel design that was more expeditious than the globe in the end.

The Future of Farming
 takes place largely in a metropolitan area, namely San Francisco. So I’ve decided that to begin, I’ll borrow from the hierarchical plan. I want to showcase an orthographic project of San Francisco to the user with maybe a handful of locations highlighted as interactable. To do this I’ve setup WRLD in my project for city landscape.

Upon selection of one of the highlighted locations with the GearVR controller, a scene will load with a focal piece of farming equipment that has made its way into the type of place (e.g. Warehouse, House, or Apartment, etc.).

A quick aside, last week I had a tough travel and work schedule to New York. I came upon a pretty bare blog post upon reading back what I wrote, so I decided, it was better to not share. One of the other hurdles I had, was an unfortunate loss of the teammate I announced two weeks prior, simply due to his prioritizing projects with budgets more appealing to him. I dwelled on this for awhile, as I admired his plant modeling work a lot. With the loss of that collaborator and weighing a few other factors, I’ve decided to pursue an art style much akin to that of Virtual Virtual Reality or that of Superhot. Less geometry all created in VR. Doing most of this via Google Blocks and a workflow involving pushing created environments to Unity which is pretty straight-forward. After you have created your model in Google Blocks, visit on an Internet browser with WebGL-friendly settings and download your model. From there, you can unzip that file and drag it into Unity Assets>Blocks Import which I recommend you create as a way of staying organized. You’ll note that Blocks imports speciate a .mtl, materials folder, and a .obj model usually. In order to have your intended Google Blocks model to show through you need to change one setting called “Material Naming” after you’ve clicked on your .obj. Change it to “By Base Texture Name” and Material Search can be by “Recursive Up”.



Here’s a look at the artwork for a studio apartment in SF for the app, as viewed from above. It’s a public bedroom that I’m remixing and you can see I’ve added a triangular floor space for a kitchen and this is likely where the window sill variety of hydroponic crop equipment will go. Modeling one such piece is going to be really fun.



View from Above



Angle View




In the past weeks, I’ve dedicated myself to edification on gardening and farming practices via readings, podcasts, and talking to people in business ecosystems involving food product suppliers. I learned about growing shitake mushrooms and broccoli sprouts in the home and got hands on with these. I learned about the technology evolution behind rice cookers and about relevant policy for farmers on the west coast over the last dozen years. In the industry, there are a number of effective farming methods that I’m planning to draw on (indoor hydroponic and aeroponic) that I can see working in some capacity in the home, and milieus I will highlight such as a legitimate vertical indoor farm facility (https://techcrunch.com/2017/07/19/billionaires-make-it-rain-on-plenty-the-indoor-farming-startup/).

I have asked for help from a design consultant standpoint from someone that works at Local Bushel.

To expound on why Local Bushel is perhaps a helpful reference point: Local Bushel is a community of individuals dedicated to increasing our consumption of responsibly raised food. Their values align well with edifying me (the creator) about the marketplace that I want to project into the future about. Those are:

  1. Fostering Community
  2. Being Sustainable and Responsible
  3. Providing High Quality, Fresh Ingredients

For interactions, I can start simple and use info-cards/move scenes based on the orientation of the users head using ray casts. Working in Oculus Gear VR Controller eventually.

UX for Created Realities

Context: I’m listening to Joshua Walton at the #CreatingRealityHackathon at USC. His talk is called UX for Created Realities. Personally found the part on Microinteractions (Dan Saffer) to be interesting.


  • A lot of this returns shit ideas –– rather than individual ideas
  • The caveat is if you have the right structure for the brainstorming session it can be more
  • key part: There’s no bad ideas but also no good ideas. People want to be heard but build
    on the ideas, go for quantities, and respect everyone and let everyone speak.

Tactics for brainstorming

  • Do your project in 1 hour
  • Work both top-down and bottom-up
  • Iterate without fear

Microinteractions (Dan Saffer) and Tips

  • Focus on dynamics that build on knowledge in the head (the Lab’s Longbow)
  • Think about sense ratios and focus (Superhot)
  • Sensing is a creative part of the design (some of the most innovative work creates a sense you
    didn’t know you needed)
  • Use sounds right away
  • Encourage people to look around
  • Consistent interactions are way more valuable than realistic interactions
  • content is king, context is scale
  • as long as there’s language we’ll have 2D
  • when you’re creating these new realities be a gracious host – learned from the hospitality industry
  • create consistent space from which to explore

Reflection: Bigscreen VR

Before I continue I’ll take a step back to define any VR application that brings together people in an environment as “social vr”. What makes Bigscreen interesting is the paradox of choice. In other social applications VR Chat, AltspaceVR, High Fidelity; there are no core activities that you can derive outside of being together, which makes the choices for what you can do very broad. With Bigscreen it’s a display extension or place to watch movies with a cinema experience. Simple.
Recently I saw that they enticed Paramount (?) studios to do a premiere of Top Gun in VR. I thought that was a nice blend of a social construct we know and love of going to the movies and social VR––though I didn’t attend the screening. I’ve used Bigscreen recently and the environments are nice with physically based shadows and lighting. Bigscreen’s reliance on virtual displays makes it well-positioned to benefit from forthcoming improvements in display clarity.
One thing worth noting is that I haven’t been able to get audio to work for all people in a living room setting. When putting your content on the Bigscreen audio seems to play only for you. This wasn’t the case in the movie theater where a host had no problem playing Rogue One off of Netflix for all to enjoy with sound.
Finally, when Oculus Home released it’s core 2.0 update everyone on Rift had the ability to see and use their desktop screen in VR. SteamVR also enables desktop viewing. Viveport? Although, today Oculus Home doesn’t offer social as Bigscreen does… this probably effects the uniqueness of their total product and must be considered for continuing fundraising.


Part of YC’s W18 Cohort, Supermedium, is a superset of webVR experiences. It features work from the likes of Inigo Quilez, Ricardo Cabello, Marpi, and others, the browser can be downloaded on Windows today.

I enjoyed Shadertoy’s audio visualizations in particular though they didn’t support touch controllers. An idiosyncrasy of the platform right now is that usually, experiences have HTC Vive controllers supported only. This means that when you use your Oculus Touch controllers the API will receive button presses and input but they will visually appear to come from an HTC Vive controller.

Check out the Supermedium website here. The founders are experienced contributors to webVR efforts, Kevin Ngo and Diego Marcos, and technical artist, Diego Goberna.

Reblog: Player – Game – Designer

The above work comes from Thomas Bedenk, who I met at VRX London in 2016. See end his page for sources (link found at bottom).

This model provides a substrate, an interactive application namely a game and its production and consumption, and highlights the aspects regarding components Player, Game, and Designer into the full picture.

Read the full version from the author’s website.

Reblog: Can gaming & VR help you with combatting traumatic experiences?

Can gaming & VR help you with combatting traumatic experiences? The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community. The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

Can gaming & VR help you with combatting traumatic experiences?

Trauma affects a great many people in a variety of ways, some suffer from deep-seated trauma such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder caused by war or abuse. And others suffer from anxiety and phobias caused by traumatic experiences such as an accident, a loss an attack.

Each needs its own unique and tailored regime to lessen the effects and to aid the individuals in regaining some normalcy to their lives. Often these customized treatments are very expensive and difficult to obtain.

In the world of ubiquitous technology and an ever-increasing speed in visual-based treatments, these personalized therapies are becoming more accessible to the average sufferer.

What I would like to do is take you through some of the beneficial effects that gaming and VR can have on those suffering from trauma, what these treatments sometimes look like and what the pitfalls can be when using them.
I am not a specialist in psychology or trauma treatment, but I feel that increasing awareness of what is out there is beneficial to everyone, and perhaps can help those suffering from trauma to take the first step in seeking help.

Games & VR as a positive mental activity

To date, a few studies have been done on the effectiveness of gaming and virtual reality gaming in therapeutic treatments. But due to the brief history of both, a lengthy study has yet to be completed. But the one thing that we can be sure of is the first-hand accounts of those that have experienced the benefit of these experiences.

A very basic exercise for those suffering from trauma is to engage in mindfulness or meditation exercises. Meditation guided through a VR system can have very positive effects on an individual’s disposition. Due to the immersive nature of VR, you can let yourself fall away into another world and detach yourself from the real world. It is as though you are “experiencing a virtual Zen garden” dedicated entirely to you.

This effect of letting go and identifying with an external locus is probably one of the most effective attributes of gaming and VR. It is the act of not focusing on yourself, on the memories and cues that cause the underlying trauma, but focusing on and engaging with another character, an avatar, on-screen who for all intents and purposes has led and now leads (through you) another life. This character has its own sense of agency to complete a quest or goal, totally independent from you.

The most effective way that games allow you to let go to offer you a challenge that requires your entire focus. And to enhance this, most games offer group challenges. These are two core drivers in improving positive emotions, personal empowerment, and social relatedness. With individuals who suffer from either PTSD or other deep trauma’s, being given a vehicle that allows easier connections with others helps them to cope with their own trauma’s much better. It takes their mind off what is troubling them and through repetition can even lead to a lessening of symptoms.
Did you enjoy this article? Then read the full version from the author’s website.

For a more behind the scenes look at how this manifests in practice, check out this PBS Frontline documentary. Master Sgt. Robert Butler, a Marine combat cameraman, recounts his struggle with PTSD and how Virtual Iraq helped.