The Fourth VR Diversity Initiative Displays the Potential of Practical VR Workshops

Tech and VR novices learned how to film 360, design in VR and build in VR software Unity in a single day.

The 19th of October marks the fourth and last VR Diversity Initiative of 2018. In case you haven’t been following the VR Diversity Initiative, it is a not-for-profit organisation under VRFocus aimed at bringing under-represented groups into virtual reality (VR). This is done by providing participants with practical workshops where they learn, build and create a rough VR prototype in a single day. This can be in the form of a 360 film, a VR game, a VR experience or in this case designing backpacks in VR.

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VR Diversity Initiative Participants shoot with a 360 camera outside Plexal. Photographed by Cheska Lotherington.

 

Hosted by Plexal, an innovation hub in Stratford twenty-one participants had the opportunity to take part in one of three workshops. A 360 film workshop, a Unity workshop or a VR Design workshop.

The 360 film workshop was led by members from Immersive Production Company Inition. Head of 360 and 3D Film Production Peter Collis and Creative Producer Imogen Hammond first started by asking what participants wanted out of the workshop. Taught them some theory and showcased by example of their own VR films the experiences they gained whilst shooting. The participants were then divided into groups and went out to shoot various scenarios with a 360 camera. They then brought the footage back to then see what they shot in a VR headset.

The Unity workshop was led by Kyaw Tun Sein, CTO of Ikigai Factory. Participants had the opportunity to use VR Ready PC’s and learned how to set up an Oculus Rift, create an experience in Unity, import 3D assets from environments to characters as well as creating basic interactions. Participants created various VR experiences from basic VR games to VR worlds, which participants could try out at the end of the day.

The VR Design workshop or ‘VR Backpack Project’ was led by Sean Continuum, a virtual reality artist. He led three tech novice teams and challenged them to create and prototype accessible bags for individuals with disabilities.

Using 3D scanning, 3D printing and the VR software Gravity Sketch, participants were put into groups of three. Each team  had an individual with a disability lead the group. They spoke to occupational therapist Emma Shepherd in order to find out the specific needs for the bags design to make it accessible to them, then the teams had less than six hours to use VR to design the appropriate bag. With additional physical materials, the teams then had to use various clothes, foam and 3D printed materials to create the most appropriately designed bag for their team leader. The result led to two bags designed for two individuals with scoliosis and another for a participant in a wheelchair.

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Participant shows-off the result of 3D scanning, 3D printing and VR designing in Gravity Sketch can do.

 

The end of the day allowed all participants to try each other’s experiences and showcase the products they had built during the day. By providing a free workshop, VRFocus hope the VR Diversity Initiative will have a direct impact on the VR industry by making the barrier to entry for VR lower. By challenging participants to physically create and build a product, the hope is that participants continue to learn the software or skills to then use it within their own community, business or company. By providing the workshop for individuals from under-represented groups there is a hope that the VR community will become more inclusive, diverse and creative in its approach to solving problems.

The VR Diversity Initiative is supported by Barclays Eagle Lab, Deloitte, Plexal, Massless.io, Immersive UK, University College London, Gravity Sketch, Inition, The Realities Centre,  University of the Arts London, Digital Makers Collective, Oculus, Hobs Studio, HeavenMediathe Case Farm and HTC Vive.

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