It was a joy to meet many Oculus Launch Pad members and staff recently at Facebook, Menlo Park, CA. Before beginning to explain my progress since the event, I want to use this space first to give a background on my startup PsyTech LLC and our project status with PHOBOS before the Launch Pad event commenced.
PsyTech LLC is registered in Lewes, Delaware and currently consists of three members working for free on PHOBOS, each living in a different country but collaborating online using Skype, Facebook messenger, e-mail, and Slack.
PsicoTech SA is a Non-for-Profit organization from Argentina, focused on articulating psychology and technology.
PsicoTech and PsyTech joined forces in 2015 and materialized the agreement in 2016. The goals are continuing the development of PHOBOS, doing research and generating educational content.
Fernando Tarnogol – CEO and licensed psychologist, from Buenos Aires, Argentina. Organizes VR meetup group in that area. https://twitter.com/ftarnogol
Francisco Rojas (me) – CTO and main Unity VR developer, residing near Washington D.C., USA. https://twitter.com/FRANClS
Marco Romero – CDO and main 3D designer and architect, proficient in CAD design, certified in 3DS Max and instructor. He lives in Caracas, Venezuela. https://twitter.com/MarcoRomero3D
Maria José Distéfano – Research Director, from Buenos Aires, Argentina. Also a professor at Universidad Católica Argentina (UCA) and Director at PsicoTech
Lucas Labandeira – Clinical Director, from Buenos Aires, Argentina. Also adjunt professor at Universidad de Palermo (UP) and Co-Director at PsicoTech
Occasionally we do outsource some work.
A website for PsyTech LLC is located at http://psychologicaltechnologies.com/ where many updates have been posted. We also post updates at https://www.facebook.com/PsyTechVR and https://www.twitter.com/PsyTechVR.
So what is PHOBOS? Checkout the introductory video:
A brief history (See company Facebook page for details):
2013 – Founded in Q1 by Fernando given Palmer Lucky’s Oculus Rift kickstarter success, pre-alpha product name AMVR – Anxiety Management Virtual Reality Platform, with scenes for City, Subway, and long winding corridor to spider room made.
2014 – Q1, Francisco joins as co-founder while he was still graduate student at KAIST doing VR/AR research and crowd simulation research on AMVR. AMVR gets renamed to PHOBOS later on.
2014 – Sept, Fernando selected to attend Oculus Connect conference in LA, CA
2014 – Oct, Francisco received Distinguished Paper Award at CyberWorlds 2014 in Spain on topic of crowd simulation in VR with Oculus Rift DK2 using PHOBOS as test environment. PsyTech also launched Indiegogo campaign at the same time and gets some buzz elsewhere on social media.
2014 – Nov, Marco Romero joins team as Chief Design Officer. Fernando launches first VR meetup group in Argentina
2014 – Dec, Fernando talks about PHOBOS on Argentine TV
2014 – Feb, new scene for claustrophobic apartment added to PHOBOS
2014 – Apr, PHOBOS makes headlines in Argentina’s biggest newspaper, later on in Wired
2014 – May, PsyTech and PsicoTech (validation partners for PHOBOS) attend NEUROCOG 2015
2015 – June, Francisco and Fernando meet for first time at CYPSY20 (CyberPsychology) conference to demo PHOBOS. Documentary filmed there also for Fuse channel. Can watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tcc0h_W2Sa4
2015 – March, Fernando and PHOBOS appear on One America News network unexpectedly
2016 – May, Francisco attends Oculus Launchpad. All members of team receive consumer VR HMDs.
PHOBOS Status prior to Launchpad
PHOBOS is still in alpha stage as of now. We have a few scenes already before Oculus Launchpad:
1) City with water fountain in park and a lot of vehicular traffic, my social group crowd simulation, birds flying over the park, and elevators that go up in the interior and exterior of AMVR tower to the pool area on the roof.
2) Subway system with passengers boarding and alighting at different stops
3) A long winding passageway in which the corridor walls get closer at each turn and the ceiling drops as well, spider room at the end
4) A nightlife town with party atmosphere, social group crowd simulation, many dark narrow alleys, dogs barking somewhere nearby, gun shot noises depending where you go, car alarms if get close by
5) A paradise island to relax and day/night transitions, not much to do there yet
6) A MRI room, putting you inside the tube
7) Subliminal processing scene with live webcam feed from doctor
8) Claustrophobic apartment
Francisco’s progress since returning from Launch Pad
Having just received the consumer version of Oculus Rift and playing Lucky’s Tale with it among other free experiences prior to Oculus Launch Pad, I updated all the scenes in PHOBOS by importing the latest OVR Unity Utilities package so as to work with CV1. I set the OVR Manager script to use the new “Floor Level” approach for Tracking Origin Type. So now the player’s height depends on the Oculus settings. I also added a Toggle VR/non-VR script by the press of a button and it works great compared to my previous crashing experiences with Oculus Rift DK2. Furthermore, I added fading in and out of scenes, and changed the loading of scenes to asynchronous.
Given that I moved the PHOBOS project from my laptop to a new VR ready machine (ASUS) and hadn’t had access to a VR HMD device for a year, I noticed I had to make a lot of fixes to many scenes. I upgraded the water textures in the city and paradise island scenes and adjusted the player height. The bird flock was flying too fast in the city so I adjusted the parameters. The navigation controls were updated so that where your head turns you can move forward in that direction if you want, and moving left or right will work properly regardless of the direction the head is turned, the same way OVR Player Controller works.
In the MRI scene, I used to have the player lay down on the MRI bed using a series of automatic body rotations, but I decided against that. Instead I did a fade in and out and it was a much better VR experience compared to the animated way.
In all the scenes, I disabled jumping and crouching controls, you can still do it using positional tracking with the HMD. I don’t animate you to sit on the chair like you were able to before in the spider room scene. I also adjusted the lights in hallway scene to be attached to the ceiling and adjusted poster ads to be attached to the walls in the subway. It is hard to notice these flaws without a HMD.
In summary, I made a whole lot of fixes due to not having a HMD for a long time, changing to a more powerful VR ready computer, and upgrading Unity version to the latest stable release. I made consistent navigation controls and improved the overall VR experience in all the current scenes.