Developer Blog Post: ARKit #1

When developing AR applications for Apple phones there are two cameras that we speak about. One is the physical camera on the back of the phone. The other is the virtual camera that you will have in your Unity scene to in turn, match the position and orientation of the real world camera.

A camera in Unity (virtual) has a component called Clear Flags which determines which parts of the screen will be cleared. On your main virtual camera setting this to “Depth Only” will instruct the renderer to clear the layer of the virtual background environment. Allowing for the seamless overlay of virtual objects on the (physical) camera feed as a backdrop for your virtual objects.

More to come on differences between hit testing and ray casting in the context of ARKit and a broader look at intersection testing approaches in the next post.

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 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 (

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.

Project Futures: The Future of Farming

The following is the 1 – 5 paragraph proposal I submitted to Oculus Launchpad 2017. In terms of why you should care about this, I am open to suggestions on what installments to make next.

Project Futures is a virtual reality series that aims to put people right in the middle of a realized product vision. I’ll set out to make a couple example experiences to share from rolling out over the next couple of months. The first will be about the future of farming. Vertical, climate controlled orchards that are shippable to anywhere in the world. 

“His product proposes hydrant irrigation feed vertical stacks of edible crops—arugula, shiso, basil, and chard, among others—the equivalent of two acres of cultivated land inside a climate-controlled 320-square-foot shell. This is essentially an orchard accessible by families in metropolitan settings. People will need help a) envisioning how this fits into the American day b) how to actually use an orchard/garden like this”

Industrial Landscape

Since VR is such an infant technology, if you can communicate your idea introduce your product, using a more traditional method (e.g. through illustration, powerpoint, or video as below) then you probably should.


There are, however, some ideas that are very bad to communicate using traditional methods. That’s why it’s an appealing idea to use VR to introduce product ideas today. Climate controlled vertical farms that are shippable are extremely difficult to conceptualize for the average American. There is real value for the customer; who gets a learning experience fueled by virtual interactions and immersive technology about what it’s like to use one such orchard for grocery shopping. 

Now here’s where my story starts to converge with this idea for the series. I keenly seek out constraints that will allow me to keep healthy and eat healthily. Incredibly, I’m using a service which allows local bay area farms to deliver groceries for the week to my door every Tuesday.  I only order paleo, or rather plant based pairings with a protein, ingredients.

What I want to focus on, is that currently, this service isn’t ready to scale across the nation. I guess, there simply aren’t resources for the same crops in different places among other logistical reasons for not scaling far beyond the bay area. So I thought…. this delivery infrastructure obviously sits atop resources created by farmers. So, to scale this delivery which can be so good for the consumer’s health, well, the infrastructure promise of a shippable orchard can be huge. Conditional on the climate controlled, shippable orchard’s effectiveness, all geographic areas would be addressable markets for such a delivery service.

I would like to empower people across the world to have access to healthy foods. But an important point in this process is a shift in thinking about how this healthy future might exist. VR is a device that I’ve paid close attention to for a couple of years and before I get too far ahead of myself, I will see what I can produce with it to communicate on the idea of the climate controlled shippable orchard. An example of the interaction a user would have is depicted here.



As a user puts the tracked controller into the collider of the plant she can spatially pick one of the options (“pluck”, “about”, “farm”).

‘Pluck’ will do exactly what you’d expect, spawning perhaps a grocery bag for the user to place that bit of shiso (or kale) in. ‘About’ would detail more about the crop (i.e. origins and health benefits). ‘Farm’ would articulate the local of optimal growth and known farmers of such a crop.

If you have an idea that you think would slot well into the Project Futures virtual reality series about the future of different products. Ping me at dilan [dot] shah [at] gmail [dot] com as I would love to talk to you about it.