Reblog: Google creates coffee making sim to test VR learning

Most VR experiences so far have been games and 360-degree videos, but Google is exploring the idea that VR can be a way to learn real life skills. The skill it chose to use as a test of this hypothesis is making coffee. So of course, it created a coffee making simulator in VR.

As explained by author, Ryan Whitwam, this simulation proved more effective over the other group in the study that had just a video primer on the coffee-making technique herein.

Participants were allowed to watch the video or do the VR simulation as many times as they wanted, and then the test—they had to make real espresso. According to Google, the people who used the VR simulator learned faster and better, needing less time to get confident enough to do the real thing and making fewer mistakes when they did.

As you all know, I have the Future of Farming project going right now with Oculus Launch Pad. It is my ambition to impart some knowledge about farming/gardening to users of that experience. Therefore I found this article to be quite intriguing. How fast can we all learn to crop tend using novel equipment should we be primed first by an interactive experience/tutorial. This is what I’d name ‘environment transferable learning’ or ETL. The idea that in one environment you can learn core concepts or skills that transcend the tactical elements of the environment. For example, a skill learned in VR that translates into a real world environment, maybe “Environment Transferable Skills” or ETS.

A fantastic alternate example, also comes from Google, with Google Blocks. This application allows Oculus Rift or HTC Vive users to craft 3D models with controllers, and the tutorial walks users through how to use their virtual apparatuses. This example doesn’t use ETL, but we can learn from the design of the tutorial nonetheless for ETL applications. For instance, when Blocks teaches how to use the 3D shape tool it focuses on teaching the user by showing outlines of 3D models that it wants the user to place. The correct button is colored differently relative to other touch controller buttons. This signals a constraint to the user that this is the button to use. With sensors found in the Oculus Touch controllers, one could force the constraint of pointing with the index finger or grasping. In the example of farming, if there is a button interface in both the real and virtual world (the latter modeled closely to mimic the real world) I can then show a user how to push the correct buttons on the equipment to get started.

What I want to highlight is that it’s kind of a re-engineering of having someone walk you through your first time exercising a skill (i.e. espresso-making). It’s cool that the tutorial can animate a sign pointing your hands to the correct locations etc. Maybe not super useful for complicated tasks but to kind of instruct anything that requires basic motor skills VR ETL can be very interesting.

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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.

Reblog: Pay attention: Practice can make your brain better at focusing

Practicing paying attention can boost performance on a new task, and change the way the brain processes information, a new study says.


In my first blog post on the Oculus forums, I write:

“Boiling things down, I realized a few tenets of virtual reality to highlight 1) is that one is cut off from the real world if settings are in accordance (i.e. no mobile phone notifications) and therefore undivided attention is made. 2) Immersion and presence can help us condense fact from the vapor of nuance. The nuance being all of the visual information you will automatically gather from looking around that you would otherwise not necessarily have with i.e. a textbook.”

What would you leverage VR’s innate ability to funnel our attention and focus for?

from Pocket

via Did you enjoy this article? Then read the full version from the author’s website.

OLP Day 2: Chris Pruett Unity Session

The following are my notes from a day at Oculus Launch Pad 2017 with Director of Mobile Engineering @ Oculus, Chris Pruett.

Chris Talking about Unity Workflow and Areas of OLP Interest

Unity Scene Setting: Grungy mid-80s arcade space with a main room and games room. Built for Rift, Vive, etc. details differ at a SDK level. It’s unreleased and he is focused on Mobile VR, and hence it’s designed to be efficient for mobile target devices.

Loading Scene and other tricks and tips for optimizing load-in

The base is that it takes a really long time to load things. The purpose of this is basically to contain the OVR SDK utilities and also has a higher frame rate. If you have been in a heavy load scene and move your head around you get really bad frame drops. One other thing you can do on the topic of scene load (takes a really long time to load a couple hundred megabits of data on a phone), put the assets in an asset bundle. Unity 5 also loves to check the preload audio data check box in “import settings” for any audio file. To take pressure off of the game engine uncheck this “Preload Audio Data” box; it’s possible to shift audio “load type” to “Compressed to Memory”.
Before the level load
  • Put scenes assets in an asset bundle, use the OVROverlay script, synchronously load, when complete turn the cube map off
  • You could decide that a one-time level load is better than a multiple level load. As long as your session time is fairly long you paid all the costs at one time, and now you have a memory buffer for the experience.

What’s notable inside OVR Utilities

You have a package called Oculus Utilities for Unity 5 this notably contains:
  • High-level VR Camera Headset (e.g. LeftEyeAnchor, RightEyeAnchor, CenterEyeAnchor)
  • Controllers API for higher-end hand-controllers (Touch) and lower-end hand-controller (gear)
  • User gets to choose left/right setting for the Gear controller
  • OVRInput.cs is abstracted in a way that allows for input from any controller (i.e. LTrackedController or RTrackedController)


  • Built into the Oculus SDK – it’s a texture that is rendered not by the game engine but by timewarp –– which is something similar to asynchronous reprojection
  • Your engine renders a left and right eye buffer and submits it to the Oculus SDK
  • The basic things that it does are projects images, warping the edge of images in the right way for the specific hardware in use
  • Timewarp – Tries to alleviate judder. It takes a previous frame and reshows this in practice, it only knows about orientation information and it’s not going to help with the camera moving forward. It will render some overlays for you. First of all timewarp has an opportunity to render faster than Unity. Timewarp composites in the layers that you submit which are essentially “Quads”. This is particularly good if you’re rendering video. It was made initially for mobile, but there’s now an additional buffer for Rift that you have to Upshot: You can get a higher fidelity by pushing certain texture through Timewarp.

VR Compositor layer

Does some texture mapping
Screen Shot 2017-06-11 at 2.25.31 PM.png


This section could use some filling out

  • Check the public enum Button for more interesting maps
  • Check out public enum Controller for both Oculus Touch and Gear VR Controller orientation info e.g. LTrackedRemote or RTrackedRemote –– will give you back a quaternion

Potentially To Come: OculusDebugTool, right now it’s only on the Rift

Fill Cost

  • Today eye buffers aren’t rendering the same resolution as the device, but rather 1024 x 1024, which is a 3rd of the resolution of GearVR displays
  • No one comes  fill bound but the buffers are 1400 x 1400
  • The way that Chris thinks about this is the total number of pixels that will get touched for a computation, and the number of times it will compute/touched

Draw Calls

The goal is the get the fewest number of these: check playersettings>options “Static Batching” and “Dynamic Batching” leave them checked. Rendering path is always “forward”
  • Draw calls are organized around a mesh
  • Batches are “when you take like five meshes of the same material and collect them up and issue draw calls in succession (this is because the real-time cost comes with loading in info about the draw)” in Stats this is the total number of draw calls (want to keep under 150), “Saved by Batching” refers to
  • Static Batched objects are objects that you mark as “Static” in the details pane on the right side. Saying that this object isn’t going to move or scale.

Movie Textures

this section needs filling out… not sure what specific advice was doled out

Optimization: Dynamic Versions of Interactive Objects

Colliders get expensive when you start to move them. How do you achieve an optimized version of your app/game with Interactive objects but only pay for them on interact events?
If you want an ‘interactable’ you don’t want the object to be static, but for performance reasons if I know that the object will likely not be moved, for example a pool table (have two pool tables one static and one dynamic) the moment that someone tries to flip this table switch in the dynamic one.
Let’s put this setup on steroids, now we have 2000 objects just like this pool table. Should we still do this swap? You don’t pay for inactive objects (i.e. the dynamic ones that aren’t enabled in the scene) so yes you would be able to use this technique of swapping in dynamic versions/instances of your objects. Let’s pause to consider a slightly different angle on this problem…
Let’s say you just want your 2000 objects to reflect color changes due to environment changes; you can keep your static batching but change the shaders to accommodate this (see lightning example below in “Lightmap and Lightmap Index” section). Another way to accommodate is instance the material, set the material back to the starting material once changes are done.

Frame Debug

Use this to walk through all your draw calls. Can be very helpful to understand how Unity draws your scene. Opaque geometry comes first, followed by more transparent objects.

Expand on how one can open this up in the Unity Editor, please.

Lightmap and Lightmap Index

  • Window>Lighting>Setting you can basically bake your lighting here in “Lightmap Settings”
  • Please fill out this section more if you have other notes
  • If you wanted to have a crack of lightning or something, the way to do that is write your own shader that will light all surfaces for objects by increasing the saturation of every object etc.
  • In the past, Chris has found it edifying to delve into the code for the Unity Shaders such as Mobile Diffuse or Standard, which are all available publicly
Let’s say we want all of the assets in the scene to reflect an ominous mood; you can go into Lighting>Settings:

You can barely see but on the far right highlighted in the yellow box, you have a setting for source that is set to “Skybox”

and set “Source” to skybox and apply an ominous skybox there by dragging it from the Project window to the box next to the word “Source”.


Oculus SDK for Multiplayer

  • Rooms: once players are in the room they can share info
  • Hard-code a roomID – helps with info transfer across multiple instances of Unity running (i.e.two different gearVRs running with the same app open can share info)
Side Notes
  • Specular – computes the same simple (Lambertian) lighting as Diffuse, plus a viewer dependent specular highlight.
  • Draw calls are organized around a mesh
  • In some cases, Unity will take images that match the same material and batch them (two versions: static mesh batching and dynamic batching) it works based on material pointers.
  • At playtime/buildtime Unity will load a bunch of stuff into the same static combined mesh
  • Colliders get expensive when you start to move them
  • Progressive Lightmapper
  • Combined meshes can be viewed which is cool
  • Unity isn’t going to batch a texture, that’s why he/a very talented artist made the atlas. You can try using Unity’s API for atlas creation or MeshBaker for similar effects.
  • Set Pass Call – is a pass within a shader (some shaders require multiple passes)
  • Unity 5.6 – Single-pass stereo rendering –– halves your draw call # and in practice its about 1/3 of all of this
  • If you want to use Oculus Touch to do pointing or thumbs up (i.e. Facebook Spaces) there is a function found in one of the scripts called GetNearTouch() which allows you to check sensors on Touch Controllers and toggle a hand model point/thumbs up on and off
  • Mipmaps – further reading
  • Occlusion Culling – What you’re able to see or not see at any given second (i.e. Horizon Zero Dawn below) – Window>Occlusion Culling

click here for the gif source