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Case Study: TurboSquid’s VR Gallery

TurboSquid’s 3D models have been used to create all kinds of imagery, which until recently was almost always destined for display on a rectangular 2D screen. VR and AR are changing all that, so we dove in to see exactly how.

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More than any new technology to come down the pipe since TurboSquid’s launch seventeen years ago, we knew VR would ultimately impact just about every industry that utilizes 3D content. One of the first things we explored after setting up our VR lab was the question of what characteristics made for an ideal VR model, and how best to demonstrate those characteristics to VR developers searching our catalog. 


Evolution of the TurboSquid VR Gallery

One of the first things we did in the lab was to simply drag a few TurboSquid model into Unreal, pull on the HMD (at the time, an Oculus DK2), and see where we stood. Of course, we’d seen plenty of TurboSquid models in VR before, as they had been a part of many of VR’s early titles. But as far as evaluating models there was something extremely helpful about the stillness of a simple space with a few static models. As heady as it may have been for us to see our models used in actual VR games, it was difficult to really scrutinize them when they were attacking us.

The first full VR gallery that we set up internally was a simple 15x15 foot area for use with an HTC Vive. Models were all static and traversal was just that - if you wanted to approach a model you literally walked to it. It was great, everyone loved it, so we continued. Using Unreal’s exceptional VR Template we were ultimately able to incorporate systems like teleportation and grasp without much trouble. With teleportation in play we were able to expand the physical size of the space. With the ability to grasp we decided to create a central table in the space that would allow users to pick up and inspect small-scale versions of the models that stood life-size around the perimeter.

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We approached one of our favorite creature artists, Cecoaliensa, to let us feature his work in our first publicly-released VR Gallery. If you love VR, and you love zombies, then at some point one of Cecoaliensa’s creations has almost certainly shuffled from the darkness and killed you. His creatures are imposing in a way that only VR can deliver, making Cecoaliensa the perfect choice. This gallery was attached as a free download to all products featured in his gallery, giving prospective buyers that ability to actually kick the tires on his models in VR prior to purchase. If you have access to an Oculus Rift+Touch or an HTC Vive, then definitely check it out for yourself and let us know what you think. 

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The Take-away: Flat Display vs. Stereoscopic Viewing

It’s hard to overstate how different it feels to inspect an object using a high-end VR system like Oculus Rift or HTC Vive. Compared to the more familiar flat-screen viewing, the ability to grab an object, then scrutinize it from any angle while turning it in your hand is a revelation the first time you do it. For VR developers searching TurboSquid’s catalog, reviewing models on a flat screen can provide valuable information quickly, but for some model types in particular, flat monoscopic viewing requires a lot of imagination on the viewer's part to infer how these models will feel in a virtual space. 

This is especially true of smaller models within reach - the kinds of objects that one would manipulate with one’s hands. These models hit a stereoscopic sweet spot when in grasping range in which the object and the user’s pupil positions form a rough 2:2:1 triangle in which the object is held at roughly two to three times the observer’s interpupillary distance. We evolved to notice every detail of surface geometry at this range, providing us with the cues that make fine dexterity possible. Getting a good read of a model’s topology in this space was clearly important.

The other model type that ended up benefiting mightily from stereoscopic viewing in VR were large, mid-distance objects. Huge objects in the deep distance like mountains or far away buildings require your eyes to focus in near-parallel, eroding any benefits from stereoscopic viewing. Mid-distance large objects, on the other hand  - say, a four meter character standing ten meters away - loom viscerally in one’s space in a manner that 2D displays just can’t capture.

What’s Next?

Our next VR gallery, featuring a new artist and new features - such as on-the-fly materieal switching and wireframe preview - will be out soon.

The VR Gallery has been developed from the beginning as a noob-friendly free kit for any artists who may be interested in a using it as a quick-start template, along with documentation that should let anyone with the VR hardware and models on hand to start kit-bashing a VR scene together, so stay tuned for more on that later in the year.


About the Author

Matthew Hales is VP of Immersive Technology and a founding member of TurboSquid, the world's largest provider of 3D content. Drawing on over two decades of experience in stereoscopic 3D, Matthew now heads up TurboSquid's Virtual Reality Lab, focused on VR, AR, photogrammetry and other immersive technologies.

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