We recently built a virtual tour experience of Markthal Rotterdam - a recipient of the 2017 VIVA International Awards for the most cutting-edge design housing residential apartments with one of The Netherland’s largest food markets. The VR experience was exhibited at RECon 2017 at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
A number of visitors to the VR Zone inquired about how we put together the Markthal VR application. We'd like to give you a sneak peak under the hood.
Our process for creating virtual tours entails a four step process:
For clients new to VR and AR experiences we first like to show what can be expected in a finished product. Typically this involves demonstrating our previous work on similar applications. Then we work with the client to outline the key elements for their custom application. Clarity in the VR experience and the kind of user interaction/user experience is what makes it possible to deliver a solid and complete application on time and on budget.
For this application we wanted to create an authentic experience of what it's like to visit Markthal Rotterdam and explore its many facets. The concourse alone is over 100,000 sq ft.
To start this project we set out a few guidelines to direct our development. We combine client feedback with our own experience creating VR experiences. For Markthal we compiled a short list of design constraints:
Ease of use was most important. To simplify control in the VR space we decided that all user interactions would either be done through Gaze or a single tap. To provide feedback to the user that the gaze activation is working, each object that can be looked at always reacts to your gaze.
To better capture the experience of wandering through Markthal we build a simplified model of the space. We combine architectural drawings and observations of the space to map out all of the locations for the experience. Movement through the virtual space in most natural by jumping from one location to the next by line of sight. This avoids visual clutter and encourages the user to explore.
Considering the volume of people at RECon 2017 we also didn’t want people staying in the VR experience for too long, creating lines. We designed the App so that it could be easily reset, instantly ready for the next person. To gracefully end the experience for users that have spent too much time, we built in a 10 minute time out.
Ahead of the shooting we scout out the location so that we can reconstruct in VR all the images, videos, sound recordings and other features.
We arrived with film crew in Rotterdam for video interviews of the property developer and shop owners.
After three and a half days in Rotterdam we're on the plane headed back to New York. We now have 8 days to turn all the captured footage and recordings into our VR experience.
We captured approximately one hundred and seventy 360 images. Every image file was curated for color balance, brightness, contrast. Here is a sample of the Before & After.
With each image we also captured ambient audio for that location. The audio was mapped to a location on a virtual model of Markthal resulting in full spatial audio as you explore the space.
To navigate around the space we let you teleport from one location to the next. To allow that we use a gaze activated icon. The icons are placed in the space giving depth, so farther icons appear smaller and closer icons are bigger.
We use XpressVR - a custom tool designed in house to help us rapidly build the environment and place all of the assets into the space.
To keep users from ever being lost and give them quick access to new locations we made it easy to access the main menu. With a single tap the user can jump back to the main menu and explore a new location.
Perhaps the most fun part of building the application was creating the arch with the magnificent ceiling art.
Lastly, it comes time to press a magic button that deploys the App onto the VR device (in this case, the Samsung Gear VR).
We are always looking for new projects and interesting ideas. If you have an idea for a VR application for your industry or would just like to chat about the possibilities of using VR in your industry, reach out to us.