This prototype stemmed from some initial reconstructions of deceased marine predators, through the use of close range photogrammetry. A common frustration for scientists when an animal washes up deceased, is external factors can greatly inhibit how much data can be collected. Our goal was to build a basic system, wherein common processes such as measurement collection and tissue observation could be performed at a later date.
The birth of Discover
The accessibility of this fundamental system allowed us to quickly adapt it toward different user scenarios and experiences.
It also enabled the development of more specialist features. One of the most time consuming aspects of data collection in shark research, is measuring. By importing a correctly scaled reconstruction of the deceased animal, users were able to complete this task in a fraction of the usual time.
A more comprehensive build named Discover, has since been utilised on projects including The British Ceramics Biennial.
Enhancements to the UI
At this point, both the new features designed to assist shark research and interest from external sources in adapting to their needs, meant the user experience required attention.
By no means was this intended as a commercial product at this point. Nevertheless, members of the general public were beginning to use the prototype and it thus needed to accommodate this broader audience.
The direction I took was to localise the user’s determination of context and action to the thumb and forefinger, respectively.
Essentially, the thumb would be used to determine the nature of the interaction (translation, scaling, rotation, labelling, etc) and the forefinger would perform the action itself. This greatly simplified the process which was especially beneficial to VR newcomers.
We’d already established that incorporating gestures which felt natural and consistent with how an individual might demonstrate concepts in the real world (ie: moving hands away from one another to express scale), would ensure users were familiar with the fundamental control scheme, without even knowing it.
Many of these features were commonplace in other VR applications, but we found the use of simplifcation and familiarity generally resulted in a far quicker adaptation rate among users.
I established the core concept for the prototype and determined much of the functionality, based on my work in shark research and conservation. I likewise designed the system of interaction which though rudimentary, proved to be effective and immediately engaging among initial users.
Tom Vine, an exceptionally talented game developer was responsible for building these various systems. Often times, his improvements would lead to further tool and feature development.
Richard Harper, Staffordshire University’s resident technical savant built and optimised the photogrammetry pipeline and the refinement of many of the tools.