Making Things Easy: Virtual Reality – Episode 2

This “Episode” of Making Things Easy: Virtual Reality is a purely text-based post.  I have not been working in Unity over the past week, instead, I have spent considerable time researching different aspects of the project in order to enhance my theoretical understanding of virtual reality design. Here I will convey the information I have gathered over the past two weeks, including my recent epiphany about 3D scanning in virtual reality design, the history of bottle design, and lastly I will share some of my recent theoretical research on VR and how the technology is helping us to raise existential questions about the creation of our reality.

3D Scanning

Last week I was watching YouTube videos regarding virtual reality and I began pondering how efficient it could be to “scan” a physical beer bottle and import the scanned file into Unity, rather than redesigning the entire bottle within the software. As it turns out this is entirely possible, which at first was an exciting realization. As I continued to research the relationship between 3D scanning and VR I began to think I may have hacked my own project. I assumed 3D scanning would involve less labor than painstakingly designing the whole bottle using Unity software.  I also presumed that employing 3D scanning technology could save labor and perhaps enhance the semblance of the VR bottle design to the original bottle (keep in mind that I am inexperienced with Unity software, or CAD software in general).

Evidently, it is common practice to 3D scan a physical object (such as a beer bottle) and archives it in a virtual reality environment by simply dragging the scanned file into a Unity project. A number of limitations exist however that can make this process harder than it initially sounds.  Two of the key limitations are A) the high cost of 3D scanners, and B) that 3D scanners can produce substandard quality representations of an object. Both of these limitations seemed worthy of my consideration, and after deliberation, with University staff I have concluded that using a mixed-method of 3D scanning and Unity VR animation design is the ideal way to proceed. In summary, what I now intend to attempt is to 3D scan the basic outline of a beer bottle, place the scanned file in Unity, and use Unity design software to render the image and create a more accurate representation of the beer bottle than would otherwise be possible by using just a 3D scanned file.



Bottle Design

Considering one of the fundamental aims of this project is to design a bottle in virtual reality I figured to beneficial for me to research the history of glass bottle design. I ended up conducting a fair bit of research and obtained a decent introduction to the history of glass bottle production. Whilst conducting research I came across this infographic that quite eloquently depicts the history of the glass bottle. Rather than attempting to curate the information I have sourced into an awkward paragraph it seemed more productive to just share this beautiful infographic, created by Oberk Packaging Solutions.


glass bottle infographic

Virtual Reality Theory

As discussed in my previous post I am endeavoring as part of this project to gain (and disseminate) a better understanding of the relationship between virtual reality and cyber cultures. Part of this aim is to understand the potential paradigm shifts that can occur, will occur, or are occurring as a result of virtual reality technology being introduced into our affairs.

One of the more fascinating (and convincing) philosophical discussions I have encountered so far has been a research paper titled ‘Are You Living in a Computer Simulation?’ by Nick Bostrom. The paper, published in Philosophical Quarterly (2003) discusses Bostrom’s hypothesis that either A) The portion of civilizations that reach a post-human stage is close to zero; B) The number of post-human civilisations that would be interested in creating and running “ancestor-simulations” is close to zero, or C) we are almost certainly living in a computer simulation.

Hypothesis ‘C’ is perhaps the most interesting of the three. This hypothesis suggests that we are already living inside a computer simulation. It seems counter-intuitive at first, but after consideration and research, the concept seems entirely plausible. The reason that this relates to virtual reality is that Bostrom’s simulation reality is essentially the imagination of a virtual reality simulator that is indistinguishable from “real life”. As I began to explore this idea I started to ponder the idea that we may be in fact living inside Bostrom’s simulation reality. In fact, we might be on our way to creating a simulated reality of our own by way of totally immersive virtual reality technology. If this were to be the case It seems it would result in the creation of an inception type paradigm in which a superior being has created a simulated reality, and that simulated reality then creates a simulated reality of its own, and so on and so forth. Where we fit into this simulated-reality-inception paradigm I have no idea, yet the idea seems no less plausible than Bostrom’s “we are almost certainly living in a computer simulation” hypothesis. For more Information please take a look at my Prezi presentation about the philosophy and history of virtual reality technology.

Next week I will aim to publish a video in which I am either attempting to 3D scan a glass bottle, start designing the glass bottle in Unity, or both.