The Digital Education team in the School of Education and the School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh have worked together over the last decade on a range of virtual worlds and immersive experience activities relevant to research, learning and outreach, including the creation of the Virtual University of Edinburgh (Vue). During this time they have experimented with and put into practical use a wide range of virtual worlds, games and interactive learning experiences potentially relevant to education.
Austin Tate and his alter ego avatar Ai Austin are well known for trying out the latest technologies, some call them “toys”. And he is a prolific blogger about the trials, experiments and the services he has tried.
Discussions over the 2014 virtual graduation ceremonies held in Second Life… which have been a feature of Edinburgh Graduations for distance education students since 2009, led to a suggestion that the team get together to try out the Oculus Rift DK2 as it looks for a Second Life and OpenSim user.
The meeting took place in the Vue server area and Austin’s VR demo lab in the Informatics Forum.
Trying out the Oculus Rift DK2 especially in Second Life and OpenSim
Austin has blogged on this before and the posts are accessible at http://blog.inf.ed.ac.uk/atate/tag/dk2/
Oculus Rift Technicalities
The Oculus Rift is a development kit not yet intended for consumer use. It is supported by runtime and software development tools which are suitable for experimentation but can be awkward to set up and use. The preferred “Direct to Rift” view video driver for example does not yet work properly with many OpenGL applications.. such as those needed for Second Life, OpenSim and much more. These application instead use a video mode whereby the Oculus Rift is treated as a second “extended” display (960×1080 X 2) which needs fancy setup, multiple step key stroke based initiation, etc.
User interaction via a keyboard, as assumed by many programs such as the Second life Viewer, is difficult when wearing the Oculus Rift. Some “games” or experiences designed specifically for the Oculus Rift employ “gaze to select” whereby buttons light up for selection when you point your look direction at them. Also, in some programs, camera positioning and avatar movement can be done via an attached Xbox 360 controller or PS3 gamepad or 3DConnection device but experimentation is still needed to adopt good ways to interact with programs when wearing the Rift.
Oculus Tuscany Villa Demonstration
Oculus use the “Tuscany Villa” model as a demonstration and test for the Oculus Rift. This can be navigated to walk round the villa, approach the outer walls and allow the positional tracking to let you look up and over them, go inside and up the stairs, etc.
Virtual Reality in Second Life and OpenSim
The team were specifically interested in how the Rift looks in Second Life and OpenSim, so we set up a visit to the Castle and Meeting Space areas on the “Edinburgh University” region in Second Life, and its Calton Hill Monuments area which has good 3D definition, a tower, columns and so on.
And Finally – Roller Coasters in VR
For those with the stomach, there are some very well modelled roller coaster simulators which include Oculus Rift support. The NoLimits 2 Roller Coaster Simulator is a great example. And there are one off VR experiences such as the Helix Rollercoaster produced by the Virtual Dutchmen.