I saw this great GIF that perfectly explains the possibilities that virtual reality opens up:
(Click the GIF for a better version)
We are not limited by real-world physics and geometry in a virtual world. Literally anything is possible. VR (specifically the Vive’s room-scale technology) lets you explore a limitless world from within a 3′ by 5′ space.
One of the tricky parts to the experience so far has been movement, or “locomotion.” How to you move through an infinitely large world from a finite space? The most comment solution is teleportation. No, really. In most of the VR games I’ve played, you can magically teleport around without needing to walk.
Its really cool at first; I felt like a wizard the first time I did it. But after a while, it can be obnoxious (and a little nauseating) to constantly disappear and reappear. Some games do it better than others, and some games require some finger dexterity exercises to get it right.
Other games rely on a static position (you just stand still, or move around in your available space, but never leave that space) or put you “on rails” — that is the game handles your motion for you. You just stay in your space. Usually this technique involves some sort of vehicle or platform to help you avoid the nausea.
There’s a few games that use the controller to control your movement through the play world. Onward, a first-person shooter, uses the Vive’s touchpad to control your movement. It takes some getting used to, and I myself felt a little nausea after a few minutes. Minecraft in VR tends to use this technique, and also causes nausea in many who have tried it.
What makes the GIF above so interesting to me is that it opens up an infinitely explorable world from within a finite space. Its hard to tell from a GIF, but I wonder how disorienting the experience is from within VR. Does your brain freak out when you see something you know is impossible?
An interesting sidenote: Some friends of mine shared stories about how their parents got nauseous when some early NES games came out in the late 80’s. Maybe nausea is something that the next generation won’t have to worry about. Is this evolution in response to technology?
I recently attended my sixth Grand Meetup, the yearly tradition at Automattic where the entire company gathers together for a week.
This year’s GM is a blur, as usual. I taught a class on user interface design (my first time!), played in the Automatic band, had lots of one-on-one meetings, spent a full day with my entire team, and saw lots of new (and old) friends at some great lunches and dinners.
I’m interested in creating a VR application. The first step on this road is learning some of the tools involved, liked Unity. Unity is an application for developing 3d games. Some of the best apps I’ve used on the Vive are created with Unity.
So I spent some time yesterday running through a few tutorials and ended up with a terrible Asteroid’s clone:
There’s music and some sound effects, too.
I also made this stupid marble game:
Since discovering the ability to scale, pan, and rotate in 3D space, Tilt Brush has become an obsession. My latest scene explores the ability to create massive scale differentials with an amazing amount of detail.
This was also the first time I painted sitting down rather than moving around the room. My back thanks me.
I picked up an HTC Vive this week. I played with one for the first time a few weeks ago and knew I needed to have one. Specifically, Tilt Brush, a sort of “painting” app for the virtual reality headset, captivated my interest. Here’s one of my first attempts at creating a scene in Tilt Brush:
It took a few minutes to completely unscrew the lugs, but I think I’m going to appreciate the “permanence” of the triggers. They’re also way smaller than I was anticipating.
I’m looking forward to spending some quality time with them tonight.
I’ve continued to adjust the hybrid setup. I took the Roland v-drum rack, and disassembled it down to just three legs and two spans. I added an additional arm to mount the TD-12 module—one less piece of hardware to lug around.
The Roland rack is super light, but can’t hold anything heaver than a pad. In other words, I can’t mount the real drum on this rack; Its to heavy for the rack clips to hold.
For now, I’ll have to use a wide floor stand just for the small floor tom. Thats added weight and floor space that I don’t want. My solution is going to involve converting another drum; a 16″ floor tom. Its a bigger drum, but it has its own leg stands built in — overall, I think it’ll be less floor space, and less weight.
I have a connection for one more pad. I’m not sure if I’ll use it for an additional cymbal, or just leave it empty for now.
The rest of the triggers come today. If things go well, I’ll be able to get it playing and hooked up for recording soon.
About a year ago, I bought a new drumset. That makes four kits in total; A new Tama Superstar kit, an older Tama Rockstar kit, a TD-12 v-drum kit, and a TD-9 v-drum kit.
Shortly after I bought the new Tama kit, I refinished the old one. I removed the old, beat up, wine-colored plastic wrap from the wood. This was an intense process as the wrap is glued, and has set for nearly 20 years. A hair dryer and lots of patience was involved. I then sanded. Sanded some more. And finally stained the now-raw wood drums.
The newly refinished drums came out OK — not amazing, but passable. However, they then sat, in a neatly stacked pile for about a year.
During that time, I rekindled my love for the v-drums. I combined the high-end TD-12 kit with the low-end TD-9 kit. I’ve been using this frakenkit as my daily driver. Its perfect for practicing any time without disturbing the neighbors, or waking the kids. The left over bits from the TD-9 kit have since been incorporated into the new Tama Superstar kit to create the hybrid kit I’ve been playing out with for the past 9 months.
With my newly found passion for electronic drums, I decided to bring the refinished kit back to life as an electronic kit. Its a fairly simple process that involves a set of triggers attached to each drum which are connected to a sound module, or “brain.” I purchased some triggers online, and I expect they’ll be here any day.
Since the “brain” and triggers do all the work and create the sounds, there’s no need for traditional drum heads. Instead, most electronic drums use drum heads made of a fiber mesh. These mesh heads can be tighted to feel just like a traditional drum, but are relatively silent in comparison. You can buy mesh heads online, but they cost $60 and up for each drum. I would need at least 4 of them, including a bass drum head which can cost way more. Instead of wasting money, I found that normal window/door screening available at any hardware store is a great substitue.
Making my own mesh heads wasn’t tough work. I took an old drum head and cut out the plastic from the rim. I then used a special type of window screening made for “sunshading” purposes. I chose this type of screening for its durability, and also because its really looks cool on a drum. I cut out a circle about 3″ bigger in diameter than the drum head rim. Then I got out the old sewing kit, and sewed the screening around the rim. It was a little time consuming, but made for a perfect activity to accomplish while watching some TV.
This is the first iteration of this experiment. The triggers I bought online, the Ddrum Red Shot, is a low-end trigger. However, there’s honestly not much involved in a trigger, and they’re mostly all exactly the same. The next part of this project is to build my own custom-made triggers inside of the drums. Doing so would avoid having the trigger connected to the top of the drum, where its just asking for to be hit with a stick and busted. After that, comes some more sophisticated cable management. Then, perhaps I’ll cut the drums in half to reduce the space need to haul, store, and setup the kit.
“The more we dig, the more we find.”
A writing professor of mine in college once told me the secret to writing:
“Just start. Starting is the hardest part. You’ll be tempted to edit yourself, or obsess over details. You’ll be tempted to create a clean and polished piece of work. That’s impossible. Instead, focus on making a mess. Then, clean it up later.”
The idea of “making a mess” has stuck with me ever since. Making a mess is easy. My kids can make an impressive mess in a matter of minutes — and have fun while they do it. I approach a new design project with the same methodology; I get everything out on the page and make a giant mess of it.
And then I clean it up.
And then I’ll mess it up again.
And then I’ll clean it up, again.
Rinse. Repeat ad nauseum.
One ideal we quickly adopted was “no chickens, only pigs”. Meaning only those truly committed to the meeting were allowed. Chickens make eggs; They survive. Pigs make bacon; They’re committed.
I absolutely love this analogy. But I can’t help think that I’d prefer to survive the meeting. Maybe I’m a chicken?