Almar Sales Company is an international consumer products manufacturer and supplier of fashionable accessory products and cosmetics for over 45 years. Specializing in designing, manufacturing and distributing Fashion Hair Accessories, Costume Jewelry, Cosmetics, Children's Toys and Novelty Items, the company asked me to create a virtual showroom.
PROBLEM: Almar's vendors that purchase the toys from Almar can't always make it to NYC to visit the showroom.
SOLUTION: To create a virtual showroom using virtual reality where the buyer can visit, walk around, and pick up and examine the products -- while gaining information such as pricing about that product.
To give the buyers a virtual experience, the use of Google Cardboard as an inexpensive device to enable numerous virtual reality viewers needed to be created as well as an experience for the HTC Vive where a high resolution, technically perfected version would be used at trade shows.
A prototype was created using the following tools and devices: the Unity application, a native Android Samsung S7, the Samsung VR Gear by Oculus headpiece/VR viewer/and most notably the Samsung Gear VR Controller which simulates hand movement.
The key for this immersive showroom was the interaction with the Samsung VR Controller. Its effectiveness as a hand in picking up products in the VR showroom and examining them was key for an effective interaction design.
Beginning the Prototype
With a mixture of plugins and added hard coding, getting the controller working was first and foremost in grabbing objects. Also a lengthly process of plugins and add-ons for development for the Android platform was an integral part of the time spent on the prototype as well.
Since the purpose of this project was not to spend time on modeling, texturing, and lighting a showroom, I purchased a showroom off of Unity that displayed a bright ambiance and cheerfulness that seemed to suit Almar's products.
Upon testing the interaction:
1. A toggled color upon hover completely changed the look of the product once grabbed. The user must see the actual products color, etc. Therefore the hover change-of-color was rid of.
2. With the use of the laser, it was difficult if not impossible to rotate the product to see all sides: the laser grabbed a face of the product. This didn't allow a rotation of the product on the X-axis as needed to see different aspects/sides of the product.
3. Making the furniture into Collider components within Unity, the user constantly bumped into furniture and made navigation with the limitations of the hand controller difficult. Therefore, it was decided that the user could move/glide through furniture and obstacles without the Collider components to reach his/her destination.
It was decided that upon grab while depressing the VR controller's trigger, the product information would instantly appear 'flat' on the viewport in front of the user. And upon releasing the trigger, the product information would disappear.
This video was recorded for the final prototype examining 3 products in the virtual showroom:
Summary & Conclusions
The main problematic outcome surmised was that this type of showroom is not really effective in sales and production information. With the Unity editor's lack of non-photorealistic rendering the product does not resemble the actual product itself outside of VR. Potential customers would want to see details such as packaging which the 3d model in Unity cannot render. VR still has a long way to go.
Mixed reality could have been a better medium to pursue for this type of showroom: photographic realism overlaid with the text of product information itself upon trigger. However, I was still happy with the success of the use of the Samsung VR Hand Controller and an interaction --- even if it didn't make sense in the world of interaction design.