Let’s Just Be Heroes, Virtually
Flying at supersonic speeds, punching through steel walls, and lifting heavy objects; these are among the numerous things many wished they could do when they were kids – to be a superhero! And for Kosho Hoshitsuki, a junior majoring in computer engineering, it was just the same, however, courtesy the new club at Penn State, Hoshitsuki is much closer to being a real super hero, virtually.
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Virtual Reality Club, which was founded in the fall of 2015 offers students from a wide array of majors on practical understanding in the design and development of virtual reality games, also applications for VR platforms including Google Cardboard, Android, and Oculus Rift.
Students got around during weekly meetings to communicate their ideas with one another, organize tutorials on game development, and review each other’s works.
“Our main goal is to have a place where people can come enjoy virtual reality and talk about new technologies,” said Owen Shartle, the club’s president who is a senior majoring in computer science.
All through the fall and spring in the previous year members of the club shared, critiqued, and evaluated each other’s ideas and also developed separate games and tasks with 3D modeling applications like Blender; Unity, a platform for game development; and Microsoft Visual Studio, an application for coding mobile and computer programs.
In the HUB-Robeson Centre, in the final week of April, the club crowned all their effort in a sort of end-of–the-year display of their projects. And as other students who were interested in VR game development gathered around in the HUB Center, the club associates showed-off their finished works and brought the attention of viewers to the fundamentals of VR gaming.
Superhero enthusiast, Kosho Hoshitsuki, later fondly called “Fe Guy” (Fe is the chemical symbol for Iron) used a combination of an Oculus Rift VR headset and a Leap Motion IR sensor to produce a virtual reality world that allowed gamers exude the abilities of Iron Man.
With the Leap Motion IR sensor, users can aim and shoot at targets by moving their arms. Every movement corresponded accurately; a left hand movement in the real world would also translate to a left hand movement the VR world.
As well as developing games that look graphically impressive, members of the Virtual Reality Club have learned to pay more attention to gamer experience and usability when developing games for virtual reality.
“With virtual reality, there are a lot of major design thought processes that a lot of us didn’t think about when we first started,” Shartle said. “So you might have an idea to make a skydiving game, but then you find out moving fast in virtual reality can make people sick. So there’s actually a lot of things you have to think about when designing the game.”