Learn a fast and easy approach to VR Visualization with Jon Fox of Helios Interactive, a Freeman Company. Fox describes their workflow for creating interactive VR experiences to win new business as part of their pitch process.
In simple terms, Helios receives a Maya exported animation fly-through video to drop into a template project file in Unity or Unreal. Then they may add descriptive pop-up buttons timed strategically with the content or other project-based customizations.
The finished product is a pre-loaded VR headset destined to impress decision makers at the physical pitch. Build the template once and simply drop in new design content whenever those last minute RFPs arrive!
Introducing Jon Fox
I was one of the co-founders of Helios about 11 years ago now. We’re an experiential design studio. We make experiences for clients, trade shows, public events, sporting events, traveling tours, etc. Everything that we do involves putting technology out into the public’s hands in some form or fashion. We’re helping them to impart their marketing messages in a way that is very hands on with the latest technology.
What have you been doing that works well?
We’ve done some things with the Freemen folk to help them take their existing models and bring them into your headset. There’s cheap ways of doing it, and there’s expensive ways of doing it, right?
What we’ve done so far is the cheap way, which is we have an app that helps us playback 360° videos. We basically just load in 360° video, and we can have pop-ups in that video to describe a scene.
We would be supplied a fly-through animation of the space as a 360° video capture if you will, typically made in Maya. Then we’d load that into our app to playback the video(s). And if we wanted to add supplemental pop-ups to describe the scene, like the size of the hall or different features of the build, then we can add those in post video output. This app is templated and is something turned out pretty quickly.
The not-so-cheap way is to build a custom VR app that allows for real time rendering of something specific to happen. Like, you build it in Unity or Unreal and then you’re able to explore a space with whatever modalities you have, whether you’re clicking to move into the next room or advancing yourself using portals, that kind of thing.
Do you see room for improvement?
VR is still super nauseous and there’s a lot of people that would never put on a headset and there are definitely best practices that go along with that, like how fast you move somebody without their active participation. There’s some back and forth that we’ve gone with the team of people making videos to create a video that’s not going to make them sick.
How does 360°/VR improve the design process?
A bonus for any kind of big visualization of a space is the sense of scale, and the view lines. Where are your vantage points for putting signage? How are you getting somebody into the space? Where can you be user friendly through a space? These are all things you can address in these VR visualizations that you can’t capture in a 2D rendering.
You can now have multiple people having that same shared experience. In a 3D world, that kind of thing is super compelling for a presentation, not just one person at a time, but now you’ve got perhaps six people coming in and seeing the space together, maybe even making real time design changes.
And the tools are getting better. Now Unity’s got a whole suite of tools for creating VR in VR, and that’s super exciting, because now you are putting those tools in the environment that you’re working in.
So you want to make the counters longer? You want to make the sign taller? You want to do a doorway that has glass doors instead of brass doors? All that can be done in real time as you’re walking somebody through the virtual space. Those kind of tools are super amazing.