This summer I worked on a virtual reality experience aimed at providing an immersive experience that would help users gain insight about the Baures people of South America. Our team was led by Dr. Norman Badler, who oversaw the technical aspects of our project, and Dr. Clark Erickson, who provided great background information that we used to accurately depict the archaeological and cultural aspects of the setting. In order to build our demo, we used a game engine called “Unreal Engine 4,” which is the current industry standard for 3D game development, and conveniently supports virtual reality headset displays out of the box. My contributions to this project included post-processing effects, a system to allow future research assistants to easily add interactive characters and items into our virtual world, and a few tools to improve other parts of our workflow.
The Baures project proved to be a great supplement to my Digital Media Design curriculum, both in terms of providing tangible means of applying classroom concepts and in terms of teaching me new skills, like teamwork and leadership, in the context of programming projects. Many of the graphics topics covered in CIS-460 and CIS-461, which I took prior to the research, helped me establish my own intuitions about how certain features worked in Unreal Engine. As a result, my I was quickly able establish a relatively efficient pipeline for starting, finishing, and optimizing the components of the project that I worked on. In addition, I needed to be aware of how the other group members would want to incorporate my work with their own, so I was able to exercise my communication abilities to stay on top of our constantly evolving to-do list.