Freelancers in VR, a Farm special

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A man wearing a VR headset and holding controllers sits in a chair, sitting almost as if he is dabbing. Behind him a TV screen shows the game he is playing.

Andy sweeps down a river in Banter

Last week we were invited to The FuseBox by Wired Sussex to enjoy several Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality experiences. It was great fun!

Some Farm members are very into VR and are well known to The FuseBox, they and Jay from Wired Sussex and Peter from VR Craftworks set up equipment from the Brighton Immersive Lab and guided us through using it to experience various games and software.

Jay Jarvis helped us use VR classic Richie’s Plank Experience. This was a great intro to VR, it eases you into a completely immersive world by seeming quite normal, then your stomach drops as you realise walking on a plank high in the sky feels very real, even though you know you’re completely safe in a normal room.

During my try, Jay pointed out some hidden controls to get a more horrifying version of the game. Although fun, I don’t need giant spiders in my life, virtual or otherwise. He also showed me the Tilt Five AR system, more on that below.

A man wearing a VR headset is assisted by a man with no headset. They are standing in front of a TV showing the game played with the headset.

Craig explains the controls of a Banter game to Giles

Craig Moore (profile) had us playing various games in Banter, a shared world VR space that has lots of games and other experiences on offer. I’ve heard Craig talk about Banter several times at our normal meet ups and it was great to try it out.

I played a winter sports game where I tobogganed down an increasingly difficult course, and Craig showed me how to teleport and drag myself faster using a Spiderman style control.

The games were great, but several of us did hit the VR newbie issue of motion sickness. It gave me an unwelcome tickle when caught in a narrow canyon but fortunately quickly cleared. For Andy it came on hard after a particularly frantic sweep down the course he was enjoying. More experienced VR users assured us this stops happening as you get more used to using the headsets and games.

A man in a VR headset holding controllers stands looking up with his hands stretched upwards. On a TV behind him we see he is climbing a tree in a game.

Nathan climbs a tree in Banter

Andy Baker helped us use Open Brush, an amazing 3D art app where you sculpt in VR. He used an Oculus headset that can be used connected to a powerful PC or as a standalone, and demonstrated the higher quality, smoother experience that the PC brings.

Andy is a contributor to Open Brush and is currently working on a plugin/scripting framework for it. After I tried Open Brush, we talked about the problem of being an open source maintainer and wanting to keep alive a project you love, but needing to balance that with commercial work. The Open Brush project is looking for more volunteers to help, so please check out their code or get in touch with how you can help.

Two men stand in front of a TV screen showing a menu and multicoloured lines. One wears a VR headset and uses controllers.

A man in a VR headset holds controllers up in the air. Next to him, a laptop and TV screen show he is making art from multicoloured lines in VR.

Andy demonstrates Open Brush

Long term FuseBox member Peter Maddalena helped us with Tilt Brush, Tilt Five AR, and gave us the benefit of his wisdom from working for many years in the VR industry, we in turn got him sucked into a chat about the use of AI in graphics software and the industry in general. It was very kind of him to give up his evening to showing us all what is possible with VR.

As well as VR, we got to try Augmented Reality. Jay and Peter showed us a game in the Tilt Five AR system. You wear a lightweight pair of glasses which projects what you see onto a reflective surface (made of the same material as high visibility strips on safety jackets!) Using it, you can see the real world with a game or simulation only where the special material is laid. Laura and I both enjoyed this, perhaps more than the more engrossing games, as the glasses were very easy to wear compared to a full headset, even over our specs. The simple marble game loaded in was very easy to pick up, and had a slightly unreal quality as you know others can’t see it but it looks real to you.

I could easily see a system like this being used by architects and engineers to be able to show a model to a group wearing the same glasses, without the bother of a fully immersive headset. Very interesting, even if it look more basic than the other tech.

A man wearing white, thick framed glasses points at a silver table where a colourful image is faintly showing. A laptop in the foreground shows a copy of the faint image.

Dave investigates the Tilt Five system

A man stands looking at a silvery table wearing a pair of white glasses. A laptop in the foreground shows what he sees through AR glasses

Nathan uses the Tilt Five AR table

Thank you to Craig, Andy, Peter and especially Jay for looking after us and showing us what to do to get the best out of the different experiences on offer.

A huge thank you to Wired Sussex for inviting us in and for the support they give to tech freelancers across Sussex.