A Night at the Museum Project Write Up
A Night at the Museum is a VR App written to meet one of the course requirement for Term 2 of Udacity’s VR Nanodegree Program. The purpose of the project was to perform research about the current state of VR and showcase the findings of that research through a VR project.
In addition, the project stressed the importance of thoughtful design, user-testing and feedback, the iterative process to create a satisfying VR application, and a succinct, yet detailed project write up.
In thinking about the project, I created a persona for a user of the application:
Name: Debbie Tobittle
Quote: What can I do to help?
Debbie is fresh out of school and is excited to be in her first job. She is anxious to learn as much as possible and advance quickly into positions with more responsibility.
VR Experience. She is quite adept with computers and technology and would feel comfortable with utilizing VR to further her learning.
The app is meant to be used by almost everyone and should not require any special purchase or expensive equipment. Beyond simple selection, the app does not require complex hand movements. And while visuals are helpful, the key is readable, thus complex 3-D graphics are not necessary. Overall the student should have some degree of control, but it is important that all the topics are covered. Given these constraints, the ideal platform is a smartphone with Google Cardboard or DayDream.
One of the most satisfying aspects of the Night at the Museum project was creating a fun environment. A found a star-themed skybox and utilized assets from a previous Udacity project entitled “Maze” and also from “Sci-Fi Environment” by Glitch Squirrel available in the Asset Store. I also enjoyed integrating audio descriptions of the various hardware platforms displayed in pictures.
My only glitch in was trying to integrate videos into the project. Despite running successfully in Unity, when deployed to an Android phone, I could not get the videos to display properly even though the audio played.
A Night at the Museum App:
The application is a museum tour on current Virtual Reality platforms. When the experience is started, the user is positioned on a platform seemingly floating in space. The mood is meant to evoke a feeling of the future. In front of the viewer is a large billboard with a welcoming message:
The greeting welcomes the user to the museum and provides a simple instruction to help the user learn how to move around. To help the user, the “Start” button changes color from white to green when the cursor hovers over it. In addition, the cursor changes shape whenever it hovers over any clickable object in the game.
Once the start button is pressed, the welcome screen disappears and another screen takes its place. The new billboard provides instructions to the user on how to move around in the museum environment. It also contains a button which when selected closes the instruction billboard and opens up a bridge from the starting platform to the viewing room.
Navigation through the game is made possible by waypoints that are strategically located to allow movement through the space and also to see the various viewing stations.
Before beginning the design process, I drew a rough sketch of the “museum” with its starting platform, the main room, and the location of the various stations.
I then sketched some possible billboards designs for the Start position:
Once these were completed, I began constructing the museum adding billboards, stations, and waypoints for navigation. I also added buttons to play audio files for four of the stations.
User-testing and iteration
As with a previous project, once again I had one of my sons and my wife test the game to get there feedback. I queried on how the environment felt, if it was easy to navigate, whether the instructions were clear, and how the audio sounded. I also asked if they felt physically comfortable in the VR experience.
One common critique was with the internal billboard which they both felt difficult to read as the words ran across the entire billboard:
I broke the billboard into two panels so it now looks like this:
Another comment was the background ambient music was distracting. That was easy to solve. I substituted the original audio sound file for a beautiful piano sonata ( Mozart — Piano Sonata K 545) which everyone felt elevated the ethereal feel of the space setting.
There were other suggestions and changes, like moving and adding waypoints and adjusting the sound volume.
While helpful, my wife did not spend a lot of time with the application. I think she mainly liked the music and the futuristic feel. My son remains enthusiastic and cannot believe I made the application. He has downloaded Unity and now is beginning to teach himself how to program. I think he loves the immersive experience.
The final user experience is the following. I videoed a walkthrough stopping at the first visual station and the four picture/audio stations. As an example I play the audio at the first station (the Oculus station).
- There is not clear exit or way out of the museum but to retrace the entry steps. In addition it is not easy to shut down the application within the experience. Adding a way to gracefully exit the application would be helpful.
- Learning about VR platforms is interesting, but the museum could easily be expanded to include more exhibits like current VR applications, or existing or possible industrial uses.
- Adding video would enhance the user experience so that users could come close to experiencing various applications. I would go back and try to figure out how to deploy it on an Android device.
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