Big (and hungry) in Japan

Monday, 08. 22. 2011  –  Category: Virtual Reality (VR) and 3D

So, I seem to remember the conversation going something like this:

Jim (Producer): Don, do you have a passport?
me: Yes
Jim: are you single?
me: Yes
Jim: good. go home pack a bag. you’re off to Japan tomorrow.
me: for how long?!
Jim: I have absolutely no idea…

My alarm at the lack of a return date was justified. Two guys had left to work in the Japanese office for ‘a couple of weeks’… 18 months ago.

I was sent to Japan to work on a virtual motorcycle project with Kawasaki. I did have a picture of it somewhere, but I can’t seem to find it. Hopefully it’ll turn up. Anyhow, the system involved the rider wearing a helmet fitted with a VR headset which was connected to a PC controlled by an operator. It was essentially a looney test (is it ok to say ‘looney’?), ensuring that before bikers ventured out on the treacherous Tokyo roads that they were able to tell right from left… and people from buildings.

As with many of the immersive VR projects, this issue was keeping the polygon count down. As the system was only able to draw a certain amount of geometry at any one time without killing the frame rate, it was necessary to produce three versions of each object:

  • a high res one, which contained the sufficient number of polygons to depict detail when the user was close
  • a low res one, which was shown when the user was slightly further away
  • a single sided polygon texture mapped with graphic which contained an alpha channel
  • Kawasaki in-game shot Virtuality Kawasaki

    Tokyo is an amazing place, and I found the people friendly, hard working and courteous. However, as I spoke no Japanese whatsoever, I lost about a stone in weight and was reduced to ordering food by imitating the animal I wanted to eat. A humbling experience.

    Don in Tokyo

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