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Oculus Mobile VR Jam – Status

I have to throw in the towel after Milestone 1.

My Note 4 has not arrived yet, meaning the next chance to pick it up at my parents’ place is Friday (1st of May). At first it seemed not that important to have a Note 4 in time. The challenge post said that the Note 4 is only needed to make sure the entry runs on the device.

Now it seems as if you cannot develop the application (at least on the native development path) without one.

That might be wrong and I should probably ask on the forums, but time is really an issue. Following the instructions in the Mobile SDK documentation (without quite understanding them) did not magically work out for me.

That does not surprise me, but my experience tells me that it will take weeks to figure out what the problem is. With only two to three hours available each day I need to give up now.

The new plan is solving the problems and working on the projects from May 18 through May 25 (finally on vacation).


The projects that I have submitted for Milestone 1:

– Dactype (Divide And Conquer Typing – with gamepad)

– SpriteScapes 3Ditor (Voxel Editor – with Divide And Conquer menu navigation)

Project Idea – Dactype

This is an idea that I had a while ago, but I did not quite like the concept well enough at the time. Now I think it might be brilliant if done correctly.

Maybe it has already been done. Please let me know if you have seen something like this.


Divide And Conquer Typing

Typing is tiresome when you have to click arrow keys to reach a letter. It might be a lot cooler with chunks of 9 options, arranged in hierarchies.

Within one chunk you can select an option using the direction control. An option can contain another level of options. At any level you can type the currently selected option using dedicated keys for the lowercase or uppercase variant. Such an event might traverse through underlying options until a leaf is reached.

Instead of typing, you can also enter the next level or leave the current one by pressing the L1 or R1 buttons while you hover over an option.

The top level could be a menu level, with options as seen below:

Characters #2    Emoticons    Syllables #2

Characters #1    Words #1      Syllables #1

Sentences #1    Words #2     Sentences #2

The Characters #1 option could look like this (I hope the format is somewhat acceptable):

1  2  3       0  +  –        < >  \

4  5  6       % *   /        [  ]   !

7  8  9       (    )  =       {  }   –


Q W E      R T Z        U I O

A S D       F G H        J K L

Y X C      V B N        M P  .


$  .  ,       ”  ‘   ^         _ ß Ä

–  ~ #       °  §  /         Ö Ü é

!  & ?       ;   :  \         €  ´  `

This way, many options could be reached with with few clicks. The top level could be even more high-level and allow the user to enter other options like

  • a history of recently typed sentences
  • autocomplete suggestions that are dynamically managed at runtime
  • mail addresses of the contacts
  • URLs from a browser history


I will evaluate what implementing this mechanism and turning it into a game for the Mobile VR Challenge would mean. It would be a challenging project as far as the deadline is concerned. There are two other things that would be cool, but they are probably equally as complex.

The biggest worry I have is that it is an okay concept in principle, but once realized it turns out that it is too challenging to develop the actuall skill because it is a little too challenging for the brain. I guess I need to see a prototype to figure that out, though.

The magic probably would not come from reaching letters fast, it would come from having syllables, words and sentences prepared and easily accessible.

First Observations – Part 2

Gear VR – Performance

The processing power and the battery life seem to be extremely limited. Most of the effort will probably go into performance tuning. I should already do the math in the concept stage. There is a rough rule of thumb that says 50.000 – 100.000 quads or vertices are fine.

Of course there should be as few draw calls as possible. I know that from Android experiments that I did a long while ago.


Gear VR – Mobile SDK

I have downloaded the SDK now and have started reading the Mobile SDK Documentation.

I have not actually progressed all the way to the interesting parts, but I know now that I can use Eclipse. That is a plus. I still have to decide how I will develop. I might still go for Unity, after watching an interview. Oculus encourages users to use Unity. A lot of the setup steps sound familiar.

It always feels a little wrong when there are parts in the toolchain that you are not familiar with. The whole Android plugins, toolkits and simulators … those things hurt the overall impression of the development process. I hope I will reach the point where I do most of the work in Eclipse and those things vanish in the background.

At least I was greeted by a friendly message.

Thank you for joining us at the forefront of virtual reality!

That is a lot cooler than the shockingly unfriendly ChallengePost presence.


Gear VR – Content

I am really curious how cool the coolest entries for the challenge will be. I think many studios and people struggle a lot with the platform limits.

On the other hands I am sure there are great applications and games begging to be programmed. I love how this is not just about man power and experience. Creativity is certainly the key to success.

If your angle is getting the idea that you have on the device, chances are you will be disappointed because you need to compromise. The Oculus demo projects for the Unity integration underline this. What they call cool looks pretty plain to anybody … even me and I am easily impressed.

I am trying to find interesting projects on Twitter, Tumblr and Google+. So far nothing really stood out.


Random Thoughts

The little math I did indicates that a voxel editor might make sense, but a game using voxel sprites would have to be extemely performance optimized by the artist as well as the engine.

I might go for a concept with low poly models and baking textures for detals. Fortunately the challenge motivates me more than the fact that those limits exist drags me down.

For the Mobile VR Jam contest I might do a low poly only game using Unity or the voxel editor using the Native Development Kit.

First Observations – Part 1

My Situation

This was a bad weekend after a bad week, at least as far as progress in the VR department is concerned.

I had reserved a Note 4 and got the confirmation that I can pick it up at a store. At the store they told me that there is no Note 4 left and that they do not know anything about such a reservation. Summary: one more time that o2 produces a huge disappointment. The only reasons I decided to order it there are:

  1. … because I can pay in installments …
  2. … and because I can choose to pick it up at a store. There is no way for me to be around for any other form of delivery.

Well, the next chance will be on Saturday, two weeks from now. I will try ordering on Friday. Maybe the system just needs a little time … and I guess I will need to get lucky to a certain degree.


The Limits

I decided to look at available resources to get more excited about Virtual Reality. Of course I picked the exact wrong material and achieved the opposite. Here is my advice: no not look at the Oculus Best Practices guide unless you need a downer when you are hyped.

So far I thought that Virtual Reality will start strong and be a decent consumer product right away, while Augmented Reality will get there in around 5 years. Now I fear that Virtual Reality might need quite a few more years before it is ready for a mass market.

Maybe the limitations sound worse than they actually are. I might do a series of experiments that show how bad violating those best practices actually is.

What disturbs me most about quite a few of those warnings and rules is that they are not in place because the technology is not quite ready. They are encouraged or even enforced because this is just how Virtual Reality works – when there is a mismatch between what the actual body does and what the eyes see, this seems to lead to problems. Here are the ones that bother me most:

  • Watching stereoscopic movies is not recommended (probably not even feasible), unless you can look around freely in the scene. When people move their heads the environment needs to respond accordingly. There will be cinema apps. Not sure if those will support 3D movies any time soon.
  • Strafing and walking backwards are discouraged
  • Acceleration is evil (when the body stays still) and only partly okay if the user controls it

The last point is bad. So far I am not interested in actually moving around physically. I will be sitting and controlling the experience with a gamepad. I always assumed that scripted camera flights are fine and that those will be the coolest content out there for quite a while.

Well, there are plans for VR tourism and drones recording stereoscopic videos for VR headsets. Maybe it is just a matter of resilience


The Tools

The next thing I will look at is the Mobile SDK. It seems as if there will be a lot more programming on a lower level than I thought. I got this impression by reading the Best Practices document, though. I have yet to read the Mobile Development Documentation, which is on the top of my todo list.

There are also less resources about developing for the Gear VR than expected. Maybe I need to search differently.

Another thing that worries me is that we have a commons problem … yeah … a problem with the commons. I will elaborate another time, but basically what I am saying is that the Open Source community does not offer the libraries and tools that I would love to work with.

Mobile VR Jam Challenge ac…knowledged

SpriteScape 3Ditor

The Mobile VR Jam by Oculus … I so want to accept the challenge. I decided to commit a few days ago. I bought the Gear VR even though it is hard to justify the expense. Soon I will order the Note 4.

The trick is thinking about it as an investment … fortunately men are great at that kind of self-deception :-).

The only problem: the timeframe. I can hardly see myself finishing something in the given timeframe. My spare time is severely limited and I will be just starting out with the SDK. Mentally I have already given up on actually submitting a simple and crude version of a SpriteScapes 3Ditor in the Tools and Experiences bracket:

A gamepad controlled voxel editor for the Gear VR.

Well, at least I have almost given up. If using the SDK turns out to be simpler than anything I have seen before, then I might get something worthwhile done in time.

What I am sure of is that Virtual Reality will be an interest that sticks and that I will invest time in.

Even if this challenge is not the one thing that brings me riches and glory, it is and will always be the one thing that sparked the creation of this Blog and made me second guess the thought that I do not want to join any gold rush ever.

This is going to be a cool gold rush.