The next level when it comes to showing something that is not really there (as compared to Augmented Reality) is Virtual Reality, where you’re not only able to show individual objects but whole virtual 360° sceneries.
This is especially useful when working with elements of extreme scale (be it really large or microscopic) or when you want to let someone experience something that you cannot or don’t want to demonstrate for real. For example, because it’s something as dangerous as a car crash.
So the brief for this project was to create a realistic experience of different vehicle safety systems and explain the individual sensors and components at work.
The basic approach was clear right away: We needed a real-time 3D application displayed on an HMD (Head Mounted Display) and – to enhance the user experience – an exhibit with a real car seat on a movable platform to simulate crash impact and a real seat-belt tensioner for force feedback.
For the HMD we decided on the Oculus Rift, as it is reasonably prized and requires only one sensor that could easily be built into the exhibit. The complete technical setup should consist of a Windows PC, Oculus Rift, sensor and remote control (clicker) and a monitor to create an external effect and have other people be able to get a preview of what the application should demonstrate.
Content-wise the experience should include several interactive scenes, to be selected and explored via a gaze-pointing menu: language selection, tutorial/calibration, intro with general information on the topics, different animated crash scenarios and an info scene with the components shown in a transparent glass car.
The user should be „sitting“ (body-less, as typical for VR) in the driver’s seat of the car, feeling the seat movements and the seat-belt tensioning for real. On the passenger seat there should be a crash test dummy, additionally, demonstrating the occupant displacement, airbag deployment and seat-belt tensioning, for comparison without and with safety features.
A voice-over (recorded in several languages) should explain what’s going on during the individual phases.
For the core sequences – the crash scenes – we developed a repeating structure: first a real-time crash and then a slow motion replay where the car should change to the transparent glass look, showing and highlighting the different components at work during the crash.
(application preview, image quality compressed for website display)
The workflow for the project combined all of the services we provide: general media consulting and technical planning, storyline creation/conception, UI design based on the client’s CD, 3D data management, 3D modelling and animation with 3ds Max, shading for the desired client’s stylized look & feel, Unity software development (including a communication interface for the movements of seat and belt tensioner, as well as 360° spatial real-time audio), testing/QA, deployment and hardware setup, as well as general project management and coordination of the involved crafts.