Virtual Reality at the NExT Lab

This article introduces Virtual Reality and its workflows within the context of the NExT Lab.

What is Virtual Reality?

Virtual Reality is a immersive 3D environment that a users can inhabit and experience. The technology aims to provide realistic images, sounds and sensations that suspends the users disbelief and allows them to accept a virtual environment as their true reality as they move around a virtual environment and interact with virtual objects.

In design, Virtual Reality can be used for content creation, such as modelling or sculpting digitally with the added dimension of inhabitable scale. It is also widely used for visualisation of designs at appropriate scales. Virtual Reality itself can also be a design outcome through curated experiences and narratives.

Our Services

The NExT Lab offers Virtual Reality onboarding, access and teaching content to all members of the University of Melbourne.

If you are interested in how Virtual Reality can supplement and advance your projects, we require you to first complete the following before getting started.

Induction

Book an appointment for an Intro Session to get introduced to the Virtual Reality workflows of the NExT Lab. This session will cover basic safety and handling to get you inducted on how to use the equipment.

Loaning the Equipment Equipment for digital reconstruction can be loaned through the Loans Desk located within the Print Room on Level 1 of the MSD Building.

Learn The knowledge base is a curated repository of articles for your learning reference. Check out the guides and other content found in the navigation column on the left.

Consultation Sessions: Book into a session where you can have a chat with one of our Technicians on how to approach and integrate Virtual into your projects. Understanding your desired outcome can streamline the process and help us better assist you in achieving the project outcome. We also provide technical guidance through these sessions.

Getting Started

After you have completed the necessary inductions above. We encourage you to review our supported workflows listed below and find the appropriate workflow your project.

Outcomes

Virtual Reality can be as involved or involved as you want it to be. The following section is split between outcomes and hardware to help you make a decision.

Virtual Reality Experiences

Experiences are classified as any use-case where interactive is required. These experiences will usually have to be handcrafted

Unity

Target Platforms: HTC Vive for Steam (Windows), Android Mobile, iOS Mobile

Description: Unity is a cross-platform game engine used to create both three-dimensional and two-dimensional experiences as well as simulations. Unity uses a flexible modular component based workflow that is easy to understand and that can be extended through C# Scripting. Development is supported by content available through their Unity Store.

Best Use-case: VR experience design and development

Category

Rating

Ease of learning

★☆☆☆☆

Flexibility

★★★★☆

Recommended Knowledge

Basic C# Scripting Knowledge

Cost

Free*

Free Trial

N/A

Unity is completely free as long as your revenue or funding raised with the project does not exceed $100,000 per year. Refer to https://unity3d.com/unity for further details.

Unreal Engine

Target Platforms: HTC Vive for Steam (Windows), Android Mobile, iOS Mobile

Description: Unreal Engine is a game engine used to create both three-dimensional and two-dimensional experiences as well as simulations. Unreal Engine features advanced materials and out-of-the-box more visually refined. It also has a familiar visual-scripting interface which can be extended via C++ Scripting.

Best Use-case: VR experience design and development

Category

Rating

Ease of Learning

★★★☆☆

Flexibility

★★☆☆☆

Cost

Free*

Free Trial

N/A

Unreal Engine is completely free as long as projects do not earn more than $3000 per yearly quarter. Otherwise a small royalty fee is paid to the software company.

Visualisation

Enscape

Platform: Windows

Description: Enscape is a plugin that uses a live link to many common modelling programs such as Rhinoceros 3D and Autodesk Revit for very fast renders - no exporting and setup required. While they do not hold a candle to dedicated graphical experiences like Unreal Engine, basic rendering can be done via an intuitive and simple materials and environments workflow, and you have access to their Asset Library which features many useful common 3D models to populate your scene. Enscape is VR plug-and-play ready.

Best Use-case: Basic Virtual Reality visualization of Rhino Designs.

Category

Rating

Ease of learning

★★★★★

Flexibility

★☆☆☆☆

Twinmotion

Platform: Windows and Mac

Description: Similar to Enscape except there is no live link - which leads to a slower workflow. Cut form the same cloth as Unreal Engine, Twinmotion features superior outputs to Enscape. There is a simple materials and environment workflow, and you have access to their Asset Library which features static and animated common 3D assets. Animation is easier and more intuitive within Twinmotion. Twinmotion is VR plug-and-play ready.

Best Use-case: Basic Virtual Reality visualization of Rhino Designs.

Category

Rating

Ease of learning

★★★★☆

Flexibility

★★☆☆☆

Designing in Virtual Reality

Masterpiece VR

Platform: SteamVR (PC)

Description: MasterpieceVR is a sculpting and painting tool (can be used collaboratively) that allows users to easily create 3D content in virtual reality. Files generated are usually ready to be 3D printed without additional work.

Best Use-case: 3D 'clay' sculpting in virtual reality.

Category

Rating

Ease of learning

★★★★☆

Flexibility

★★★★☆

Cost

A$ 42.95

Free Trial

2 hour return policy

GravitySketch

Platform: SteamVR (PC)

Description: VR designing application that mostly works by generating and manipulating surfaces that are swept/stretched by moving the controllers in your hands. Files generated usually require a significant amount of effort in a program like Meshmixer to prepare for 3D printing.

Best Use-case: Fast 'sketching' of ideas in virtual reality.

Category

Rating

Ease of Learning

★★★☆☆

Flexibility

★★☆☆☆

Cost

A$ 42.95

Free Trial

2 hour return policy

Tiltbrush

Platform: SteamVR (PC)

Description: Tiltbrush is a 3D painting tool that allows users to easily create 3D scenes/objects in virtual reality. Tiltbrush works by 'painting' with a brush in a 3D canvas. Brush strokes remain separate brush strokes and no actual solid object gets created in the app. Therefore files generated are not really suitable to 3D printing.

Best Use-case: Creating a 3D painting.

Category

Rating

Ease of Learning

★★★★☆

Flexibility

★★☆☆☆

Cost

A$ 28.95

Free Trial

2 hour return policy

Hardware

Check if your machine is capable for VR using this free test: https://store.steampowered.com/app/323910/SteamVR_Performance_Test/

The MSD Loans Desk provides three different offerings from the HTC Vive family of headsets. There are only minor differences between them where most of the time, we recommend the Vive Cosmos for its ease of setup.

All iterations use proprietary controllers to stand-in for interactions, the HTC Vive and the HTC Vive Pro share the same early design, which is easier to use and more intuitive. The Vive Cosmos uses new controllers with its new tracking method that are less intuitive.

HTC Vive

HTC Vive Pro

HTC Vive Cosmos

Tracking

Uses External Sensors for tracking

Uses External Sensors for tracking

Uses Internal Cameras for tracking

Tracking Quality

★★★★☆

★★★★★

★★★★☆

Space Compatibility

★★★★☆

No mirror surfaces

★★★★☆

No mirror surfaces

★★★★★

Works everywhere

Immersion

★★★★☆

★★★★☆

★★★★★

Comfort

★★★★☆

★★★★★

★★★☆☆