Thomas RicciardielloDA Software DeveloperProject Development
Ben SimonsTechnical DirectorTechnical Lead
Darren LeeDA Software DeveloperTechnical Assistance
The Cozy Living Room project is our Unreal Engine 4 debut after successfully modifying the engine to run on our Linux cluster with the nDisplay module. This project was initially built to test a Rhino → Unreal Engine pipeline, and since has become fully integrated into the Data Arena with our external peripheries and input devices. Up to 8 users can each have a motion-capture controlled cursor in the room and collaborate on new interior layouts by moving lighting and furniture.
The Living Room model was originally sourced from CG Trader (since made unavailable) in the
.3DM format for modelling software Rhino, commonly used amongst architects and interior designers. We wanted to explore a pipeline from Rhino to Unreal Engine 4 to make the process of model visualisation in the Data Arena easier for our students and staff. Thankfully this was a simple
FBX export from Rhino and basic import into the Unreal Engine project. While nearly everything was in place to begin with, some materials didn't quite translate accurately (e.g window and object glass, fabrics and wood) and needed some tweaking afterwards.
A few WIP shots during our lighting development. You can find more detail about the process here.
As a (primarily) game engine, UE makes real-time interaction and manipulation of a level fairly straightforward, and the nDisplay module allows us to tap into our VRPN network for access to any number of input devices. We built an interaction system based around our Optitrack motion capture "tracking markers".
A tracking marker is a piece of plastic with 3 balls which glow in the dark (well, infra-red). They're visible to our motion capture system. Each marker has a unique 3-ball arrangement, and is labelled with a marker number 1 to 8. The cameras can tell them apart. Further, each set of 3 balls create a virtual triangle. The orientation of each unique triangle - the way it is held by a user - is meaningful. We infer gestures. Users move the markers in the Theatre, and can see a corresponding Cursor on screen. The number on the cursor matches the number of the marker. That's your mouse.
In the Living Room project, up to 8 users can control a unique cursor on screen. Sometimes users need to walk with their marker around the Data Arena to get their cursor to a part of the screen. Moving furniture or lights is a simple gesture of pointing at an object on screen, see the object outlined in white, then flipping the tracker to grab it. Furniture can then be placed anywhere in the room at a new angle. You can read more about our process of developing a multi-cursor system here.
Our SpaceNavigator controls the in-game camera to allow for smooth movement across six degrees of freedom. This operates independently to the tracker-based cursors, so a ninth person could control the view of the Living Room while others work on a new arrangement. If at any time the layout becomes unworkable, a button press on the SpaceNavigator can re-arrange the furniture to its default layout.
This project is a milestone for multi-user experience in the Data Arena and represents our intentions to move into spaces of architectural visualisation, interior design and real-time "Digital Twin" model production with Unreal Engine.
It's a tech demo - here's how 8 people can interact & collaborate with objects in a shared Virtual Reality. You can use this for your project. The 8-mouse input system is part of the Data Arena's Unreal Engine Plugins. Download it for your Unreal Engine Editor. Let's create collaborative visualisation projects. This demo was built on a Macbook Pro Laptop.
Unreal Engine 4.25.4 is now up and running in the Data Arena and we invite you to share your Unreal Engine projects with us and try them in the Data Arena. You can follow our ongoing development with Unreal Engine and download materials to help get your project started here.