On October 1 and 2, Harpreet Wasan along with his team, ISSIE (ISSIE = International Space Station Interesting Exercise), will be traveling to the World Maker Faire, a huge event that gathers students, tech enthusiasts, engineers, educators, creators, commercial exhibitors, and more from all over the country and allows them to present and share the latest projects and products they have built. This is Harpreet’s first time attending Maker Faire and he and his team are looking forward to presenting their project, which is centered around augmented reality and virtual space.
Their concept is centered around physical activity for astronauts. Bones get weak while in space and they lose their density. The team has come up with an intergalactic space game that will keep astronauts constantly active while out in space. The interactive video game uses augmented reality to recreate a space environment. Through a Microsoft HoloLens headset, astronauts will see their actual surroundings and augmented reality objects such as aliens, planets and other space elements as if they are actually present. If you’ve ever wanted to pose beside a virtual reality alien, this is the game for you. Pretty cool huh?
The project started in Spring ‘16 when Harpreet attended the NASA Hackathon. Here, he met Michael Doyle, a technology manager, and his 9-year-old daughter Laura, who came up with the idea of a workout in virtual space. Harpreet and a few other students, from different states within the country, became interested and wanted to work on this project.
After doing some crowdfunding on Fiat Physica, ISSIE got to work creating the game on HoloLens in their lab space, ISSIE Labs, which is where the team meets, have hackathons and work on perfecting the game. They will soon need volunteers to try them and give some feedback – comment below if you’re interested!
We can’t wait to hear about how ISSIE does at the World Maker Faire. Stay tuned to see how they get on!
Pokemon Go has officially released in North America, Australia, New Zealand and Japan and we’re already walking into walls hunting for those elusive pokemans!
The new app, available on both iPhone and Android, involves getting players to travel around the real world searching for and capturing wild pokemon, which appear on your phone screen while you view the scenery through its camera. This gives the effect of the pokemon actually appearing in the real world – which is something many fans (of all ages!) have dreamed about for the last 20 years since the franchise’s inception.
Pokemon Go is fascinating not only because of its wish-granting capabilities, but because of the technology behind it. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are systems that capture, store, check and display data related to the surface of the Earth. We’ve seen this on GPS software, where the program displays a map of your location, often with 3d attibutes. Ingress, a mobile game very similar to Pokemon Go, uses the same technology.
GIS can even display the terrain of the location, so when you’re hunting Pokemon in a park the app will actually show that you’re in a grass area – which means grass and bug type pokemon, like Caterpie, Venonat, and Bellsprout will pop up on your map. Go near water and you might expect to see Seadra, Magikarp, and Starmie. This neatly mimics the experience of playing the game as pokemon can be found in their preferred habitats, bringing the augmented reality authenticity to an impressive level.
Students interested in learning more about GIS can take the elective course CIT 351 – Geographic Information Systems taught by Professor Dan Farkas. The class is a hands-on introduction to GIS that uses industry-leading software to enable students to build their own GIS models and applications.
Show us your pokemon! Let us know if you’ve spotted any in the Pace area (we’ll share!) and, most importantly, if you’re interested in a Seidenberg Pokemon League!
At the same New York Virtual Reality Meetup mentioned in the previous blog post, Seidenberg students Avery Leider and Harpreet Singh Wasan were able to interview a few of the other attendees and founders to pick their brains about the VR industry as it’s suddenly growing as software and hardware are becoming easier to access by the day. By attending Meetups in the NYC tech scene, Avery and Harpreet hope to gain substantial knowledge on the state of the industry as it’s expanding and also to experience the various developments that people are bringing to these Meetups, both hardware and software related.
In this next interview we hear from DJ Smith of Morristown, NJ, NYVR’s co-organizer since the beginning of 2014. Smith is also a member of the Washington DC VR Meetup, but between Meetups he works as an engineer, builder, artist, and entrepreneur. Here are his responses to our students’ queries:
Harpreet: From the time you started with Virtual Reality until now, what, in your opinion, is the most exciting development in VR?
Smith: Now, the Social VR Apps, obviously, because I just presented on it, that has really excited me for two reasons – one, the freedom to basically create the worlds, and then, two, to be able to share those worlds with other people and communicate with them directly. I think both of those things are wonderful aspects of VR Social Apps and I am anxious to see how far they will go.
H: Is there anything else that comes to your mind that is also about to take off?
S: Right behind Social VR Apps, I really like what people have been doing with the actual live video aspect of it. So, basically, to be able to film in 360 degree video or 180 degree 3-D video, and in being able to view an event in a headset that is around your entire body, you just get that sense of presence, and I think the future of media is going to be just that. It’s going to be an all-encompassing thing. So, I think Social VR apps and then the 360 degree and maybe 3D live video – however they will be incorporated into the public – those will be the two main focuses.
H: What is your advice to Pace University students who want to get into VR? How should they go about getting into the industry?
Avery: So, if Pace University students wanted to help you in your Virtual Meetup room, to add our Pace University assets to your VR world, what do you recommend we do?
S: Wow, if I could get a bunch of college kids to build my virtual room, that would be awesome! The VR Chat room that I created [for the Meetup], NYVR Room, is built in Unity. I’m a very basic developer without a lot of advanced knowledge. It’s relatively easy for a newcomer – just download Unity, start messing around, and reach out to me. If there are students who are willing to contribute, I’m happy to incorporate their stuff and give them small tasks. Or, better yet, go on VR Chat, build your own thing, that would work, too. And invite me, because I want to see it!
So there you have it. It doesn’t take solid groundwork of experience to get started in VR development. This is our challenge to other students at Seidenberg who have caught an interest in VR: start playing with it and share something at the next NYVR Meetup!
Aldis Sipolins, hailing from Toronto, Canada, was another notable attendee at last week’s New York Virtual Reality (NYVR) Meetup. Sipolins was there to demonstrate his immersive learning VR platform, Cerevrum, which he started based on his belief that neuroscience will eventually prove VR is a superior learning method. He calls it “neurogaming”, a combination of virtual reality, machine learning, and cognitive neuroscience. Aldis believes that those currently trying to improve their intelligence with brain training will eventually find what they are looking for in Virtual Reality assisted learning.
Aldis ran a virtual reality laboratory for one year at the University of Illinois while earning his PhD in Visual Cognition and Human Performance. During the Spring ’15 semester, the U of I had a new computer science class – Virtual Reality – which was taught by Professor Steven M. Lavalle. Professor Lavalle had previously been on leave, working as the Chief Scientist at Oculus (developer of the Oculus Rift) which Facebook acquired for $2 billion in 2014. Aldis’ experiences at his university eventually led him to start Cerevrum in April 2015.
At the Meetup, Seidenberg students Harpreet Wasan Singh and Avery Leider, who have been on the prowl for information concerning the latest advances in VR technology, were also able to interview Aldis and his brother, Nik, who joined him that night to help with the demonstration.
Harpreet: Since the time you started with VR until now, what are the most significant developments you have encountered?
Aldis: VR has changed enormously in the time I’ve been in the industry. We’ve gone from the screen-door effect in the [Oculus Rift Development Kit] DK1 to not being able to see pixels in HTC Vive. We’ve come from having to use a mouse and keyboard to having incredible motion controls and hand-tracking.
Nik: The first and most significant transition is the ability to run [these technologies] on your phone. That’s going to be the democratizing thing in VR – not having to purchase a device that is purposefully built as a Virtual Reality machine. And whether or not [you use VR] with the Samsung Gear VR or with Google Cardboard, or with any other – I’m sure people will figure out many novel ways to attach their phones to their faces – that’s going to be the near future of VR.
Harpreet: Can you explain what you are trying to do with Cerevrum and Virtual Reality?
Aldis: Cerevrum is exciting to me because Virtual Reality opens up so much potential for brain learning. Brain training right now is an unexplored field of Virtual Reality. We’re going to be the first in VR with a brain training app. Brain Training VR opens up a bunch of possibilities of what you can do at a neuropsychological level. Cerevrum adds the missing piece of the puzzle, which is VR. Right now, brain training doesn’t work and it is easy to see why. Pressing buttons on a tiny screen only goes so far. The feeling of presence that you get in VR means that you use the same set of cognitive skills that you do in everyday life. That’s the point of brain training, to get better at the skills you use in everyday life. We live in immersive 3D environments, so I think that it makes sense to learn in them too.
Harpreet: What else about VR is exciting to you?
Nik: 360 degree photographs. If you’ve never experienced it, get a Samsung Gear VR or Oculus Rift and look at a 360 degree photograph. It’s stunning! People make the same face, they all do the same things, they look around themselves, and are dumbstruck. What I also saw that was cool was a 360 degree video of an acoustic performance. It was a band in a small space and they brought in a virtual reality camera and with your Samsung Gear VR or Oculus Rift headset on, you really felt like part of the performance in this intimate space. What these guys were doing was putting concerts in virtual reality. If you don’t like being in a crowded bar, or you have anxiety issues or can’t afford tickets to the New York symphony orchestra, with this technology you can be in your living room and feel like you are at the New York Philharmonic.
Harpreet: There are students at Pace University who want to get into Virtual Reality. What do you recommend to them?
Nik: Learn Unity. That seems to be the first skill. Come up with a cool little app that you can develop for VR. Currently the user base is small, as it’s an early technology.
Aldis: Pick up Unity. It is free and it is super easy to learn. I was a grad student struggling with programming and MATLAB, and within a few months [on Unity] I was making 3D experiments. It’s very easy. So, pick up Unity, pick up programming, find a good artist, and do whatever you want. Follow your dreams.
Virtual Reality is riding on the latest boom in the technology sector, and one way Seidenberg is keeping up with the ever-growing community is through Meetups. These Meetup communities and events are an excellent resource for exchanging information, ideas, and joining forces with other trendsetters in the field. Just last week, Seidenberg CS graduate student Harpreet Wasan and CS PhD student Avery Leider attended the most recent New York Virtual Reality (NYVR) Meetup to interview some of the leaders there to see what’s new and improving in the VR scene.
One person Avery and Harpreet were eager to speak with was Eric Greenbaum, an original founder and organizer of the NYVR and NYVR Developers Group MeetUps. Greenbaum works as a patent attorney, entrepreneur, and start-up consultant, and has also been active as a ‘Virtual Reality Trailblazer‘ since seeing the 1992 movie Lawnmower Man, in which the main character becomes a genius through VR technology used to augment his intelligence. And although Lawnmower Man may not be the best advocate for convincing the world of the usefulness in VR technology — there is definitely an allure to VR’s range of possibilities! In fact, Greenbaum believes that with the introduction of the Oculus Rift, “VR is poised to take the tech world by storm.”
Harpreet and Greenbaum talked about the current expansion in the VR industry:
Harpreet:From the time you started with Virtual Reality, how far has VR come?
Greenbaum: The VR industry has grown a lot, since 2012 until now, from being essentially nonexistent to being one of the world’s most exciting technology platforms — kind of like the Internet. I think it is important to recognize that before the recent excitement, there were people working on industrial VR for the last 20 years. So there has been this whole movement, bubbling beneath the surface, of really dedicated scientists and engineers working on VR since the 90’s. It wasn’t until the cell phone industry drove down prices on screens and inertial measurement devices that enabled accessible VR for the masses. So, how has it changed? It changed from like 7 people in the grimiest co-working space in midtown to like 1500 people [in the NYVR MeetUp], and we’re packing out Microsoft on a monthly basis.
H: What’s the most interesting thing you’ve seen in VR?
G: The social VR is the most exciting; you saw some of it [at this MeetUp] and it is a little bit primitive, but it holds a promise to change the way we interact with each other. Imagine being able to sit in a virtual space with your friends from around the country or around the world and share and watch a movie or play chess or have that feeling of being together in a space. It’s really powerful and I think it’s going to change everything.
H: So, there are students at Pace University that are interested in getting into the VR industry – what advice can you give them to get started?
G: If you want to get into VR, the most important thing is to have an idea. What do you want to build? Before you start to think about what concrete skills you need to build it, spend some time thinking about what unique characteristics VR can bring to the table and how can I use that to do something amazing? Once you think about your idea, the tools that are available are really accessible. For example there is a program called Unity, which is a go-to tool to build a VR experience, and even if you have no programming experience at all – no gaming experience at all – if you sit down and spend a few hours with Unity you can make strides and build things. As someone who two years ago had zero experience, the experience of sitting down and building a space and then entering it in a virtual way, was one of the most transformative technology experiences I’ve ever had. If you haven’t done it, do it. Unity is free – there’s no reason to not do it.
For more information about the Virtual Reality scene, stay tuned for other interviews we’re conducting with various members in the field! You can also head over to Eric Greenbaum’s blog to see what VR topics he’s currently discussing. Lastly, don’t hesitate to get going on the Meetup trend. There are a bunch of events coming up in the city, so let us know on Twitter (@pace_seidenberg) when you’re going!
Over the weekend of July 10-12, a team of four Pace students competed against 19 other groups in the NYC Virtual Reality Hackathon, a hackathon that took place as part of the LoNyLa/TimeWave Festival. The Pace team won the Best Wow Factor VR category and brought home a $500 prize!
Pace students and alums Taranjyot Singh Multani (MS CS ’15), Dhruvil Gandhi (MS CS ’16), Avery Leider (PhD CS ’18) and Syed Adil Hasan (MBA Financial MGMT and IS ’16) joined up with Zeev Kirsh, a litigation staff attorney at Paul, Weiss, and Guilherme Pena Costa, a Brazilian programmer who works at McCann Advertising Agency, whom they had met at a Sony sponsored Mega-Meetup the night before the hackathon. The diverse team used their individual skills to dominate in their category during the hackathon – just the kind of interdisciplinary focus we love to see!
The theme of the hackathon focused on “Mythos and Moxie,” an idea derived from the way technology changes constantly and rapidly while storytelling fundamentals have remained the same. The teams were challenged to create a VR platform that transcends technology and opens up users to a more human experience of storytelling, exploring the possibilities of VR technology while doing so.
The team decided to create a kind of virtual island that would incorporate musical features, which users could alter according to their own liking using their movements. The island played four different kinds of music in each corner, and users navigated the island using the Oculus Rift. Depending on how they moved, the music would change in volume, intensity or balance. Users could move around the island to figure out which kind of music they most wanted to hear. The team had originally planned to make movement possible through Dhruvil’s Leap Motion, but faced a big challenge in getting the software and hardware to interact seamlessly. Eventually, they had to cut out the Leap Motion and focus just on using the Oculus Rift and game controllers for movement. Even so, their product was a great success with each of the five judges.
After all the groups showed off their projects, the Pace team received high praise from their category’s judge Chaki Ng, who is also General Manager for Viacom Labs. He stated that the team had successfully captured the essence of the hackathon with their project, and that their project was the most developed and complete out of the presentations that weekend. It turns out that music is a great way to provide an emotionally tangible experience for a user in a virtual environment. The team was delighted to hear this, especially considering the setbacks they had faced during their project. Nevertheless, their story and their content was strong enough to earn them their prize, and we hope they can continue to build on this project in the future to include all the cool features with Leap Motion that they originally wanted to use!