Learning Unreal Blueprints for VR

I enrolled in Udacity’s Learn Unreal VR Program to gain a better understanding of Unreal Engine and to learn blueprint coding. I have used my VR headset for gaming and 3D modeling purposes, but never to develop any sort of interface or user interaction. As these are growing interests of mine, this course was a perfect fit to gain new skill sets in these areas.

The course’s primary focus was not to teach you how to model or bring assets into Unreal, but rather on how to create an experience for the user. For example, I learned how to set up a player pawn and user controls, set up blueprints for assets to make them interactive to the user, and how to begin creating interfaces for timers, scores, etc.

The first project was a to create a game called “Kitchen Cleanup”. The game involved the user picking up randomly spawned plates and cleaning them in the sink. My job was to:

  1.  Create a player pawn with a controller that had the ability to interact with plates (using blueprint interfaces)
  2.  Spawn plates every few seconds that could be interacted with (randomly spawned at target points)
  3.  Create a sink that would read if a plate was in it (AKA overlapping it’s collision box) and “clean it” (destroy the actor after a 2 second delay)
  4. Develop a timer and score system that the player could see, a method to start and end the game (event dispatchers) and a start menu (interface widgets)

The course ultimately gave me the skills I needed to develop the game. Here’s a preview (sorry, WordPress only accepts my grainy GIF rather than video):

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Other than the actual mechanics of the game, I threw together the main menu logo in Illustrator:KitchenCleanUp.png

I also added a particle emitter to depict “bubbles” near the sink (a texture created in photoshop). Overall, the game was a blast to make. I will make a second post regarding the second project once it’s been reviewed by Udacity.

 

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Printing a Mount for the Oculus Rift

To start with:

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Secondly, this is what happens when you leave a print running and go to work:

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So maybe that doesn’t happen all the time, but I sure did waste a lot of wood filament. I was in the process of printing a wall mount for my Rift and touch controllers. I originally downloaded both models from Thingiverse, but I made some modifications to the mount for the HMD (scaled it along the X axis, added a curved surface since I’m constantly scared of UV light screwing up my lens):

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During the middle of the second try (this time with ABS), the extruder clogged. Lucky for me, I’ve dealt with that issue before (see my post about extruder clogs…) and was able to quickly disassemble the extruder, declog it, and reassemble. Hey, it only took a few hours rather than a few days! For my third try, I decided to just go with Prusa’s standard PLA:

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And the final products, mounted to the wall in all their glory:

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Yay for useful prints!

UX/UI Design through a DesignLab Course

I decided to take a UX/UI design course because it’s a topic I’ve always been interested in. As an architect, it is my job to determine how a person uses and interacts with a space (in my case, a physical building or place). However, I am very interested in virtual interaction, particularly in VR, and was hoping to gain knowledge from this design course. First, I’m just going to give my overall thoughts of the course I took, “UX: Interaction Design” with DesignLab, and then I’ll jump into what we learned and what I felt I gained from it all.

To be upfront: the class itself was a bit pricey, and I felt it didn’t give me everything I was looking for. The course seemed to be geared towards someone with little or no background in design, and of course since my background is design, it felt lackluster. The topics were broad and lectures seemed to only scrape the surface of true UX/UI.  My tutor was really nice, but I felt like we just went over topics discussed in the online lectures and nothing more. At the end of the course, I realized what I needed was not information regarding what UX/UI is (because as a designer, I should already have a grasp of interface design and how clients interact with my work). Rather, I needed the tools to begin building these UX/UI interfaces. On a positive note, I did gain some of these skill sets.

The overall project was designing a website for an online grocery store. Firstly, I learned how to analyze and compare competitor’s work, as seen below:

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After analyzing the competitor, it was time to start working with site maps and user flows. Sketching out how one’s site would work and how people would move through it was not as easy as I thought, and I had to go through a few more competitor sites and draw a few flow iterations before I could come up with this:

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After creating a user flow diagram, I set up wireframes to display my imagined site pages:

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And lastly, I tied together the flows and wireframes to create a site map with my wireframes:

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Overall, I did have a lot of fun creating my “website/app” and it was definitely a good design exercise. I feel somewhat more knowledgeable about what does and doesn’t work for a good interface. However, my next goal is to actually jump into the actual physical creation of these interfaces (….maybe I should just learn to become a developer…)

Maya 2014 Tutorial

I had such a blast doing these tutorials by John Aurtur Mercader:

It’s been a few years since I actually completed his tutorials, but I was reminded due to my reignited interest in Autodesk modeling software, including Maya and now 3dsMax. I ended up with a model I was pretty happy with:

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Right now I’m currently enrolled in a Udemy course for 3dsMax, so we’ll see where that takes me!

Experimenting with Wood Filament

I’ve always wanted test wood filament on my personal 3D printer; I had a chance in college to use it on the machines in fab shop and loved how it looked and felt. Most wood filaments are primarily PLA with some wood mixed in and the filament I decided to purchase was no exception. I went with Hatchbox, which is 80% PLA and 20% wood. Honestly, I would have guessed the wood percentage to be higher because the spool appeared/smelled like wood!

I was a bit nervous to load it in to my printer due to my printer’s history with clogs, so I researched the optimal settings online. Most people said to go with standard PLA settings, although some tried increasing both the nozzle and bed temperature slightly with decent results. Instead of 210 nozzle and 55 bed (standard PLA preheat settings on the Prusa), I bumped it up to 220 and 60. I cleared out the last bit of my clear ABS and loaded my wood filament- it took a bit longer to extrude and I had a minor heart attack during those first few minutes. But alas, it came through the nozzle in a clear and steady stream.

My first few trials fell short- I do recommend bumping the bed temperature up, potentially using a glue stick, and lowering the nozzle as I had initial difficulties with the filament refusing to stick. But once I got my settings jussstt right, I had absolutely beautiful results. Check out this gorgeous vase I printed (model here):

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After my first successful print, I decided I wanted to try post processing. I had watched youtube videos of people sanding and staining their models and was curious how well it worked. I purchased Minwax Polyshades Stain and Polyurethane in Antique Walnut and some high grit sandpaper and went to town:

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I was disappointed with how the vase turned out and do not have a final picture- the stain clumped and was not fully absorbed by the print. However, I had much better luck with a small frog I printed. Here it is pre-sand and stain:

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And here it is sanded and one layer of stain:

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The final product:

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Overall, it turned out very well! I felt like the most important part of the process was sanding the model down, as it seemed to help the stain absorb into the filament. I plan on continuing to test and will keep you all updated with new progress!

Documenting my Failures (and ultimate Success) with the Prusa Printer

As many of you know from my previous post, I left off discussing the misalignment of my Pinda Probe over the print bed. I wasn’t sure how big of an issue it was going to be, until I tried calibrating the XYZ axis. The nozzle began hitting the bed after the 3rd pinda position and I had to abort the calibration. I was pretty confused how to fix this problem and began digging around Prusa’s support site and different blogs/websites dedicated to Prusa printers. The most useful site I found was the Pinda misaligned page on the Prusa site. I determined my issue was shown in this diagram:

 

My Pinda had managed to front shift during the repairs of my extruder (see the post below for a rant of that godforsaken clog). The page said that to fix this problem, “just unscrew the M12 bolts holding it, move the Z-frame back (or front, depending of the position of the pinda relative to the heatbed probe circles, and tighten it back”.

Well, “just unscrewing the M12 bolts” turned out to be more difficult than I imagined. First of all, I didn’t put together the printer (yes, I’m one of those people who bought it pre-assembled) so I wasn’t quite sure where the M12s were located. I finally found this video by Josef Prusa which shows the exact location under the printer (around minute 8:00).

 

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After finding the bolts, I discovered that I probably needed to work out a bit more, as I could not loosen them. Even my boyfriend struggled and we sat for a while baffled at how we would possibly loosen them. FINALLY, with some help of WD-40, we were able to undo them. I realigned the Pinda within the circle and tightened the blots…. to only realize my Z frame was skewed. It took a couple tries, but I finally got it to sit perpendicular. Overall, it was a bit of a process, but the printer ended up calibrating fine (I’m still getting “XYZ calibration all right. X/Y axes are slightly skewed”, but that’s a fix for another day).

Here’s a pic of a quick test print, which I’m quite pleased with:

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I’ll post some more photos later of future prints, but in the mean time, happy printing!