VR First at Bahcesehir University — The One Year Anniversary
Like many in Istanbul, VR First at Bahcesehir University has been home to many of my experiences in VR over the past year. I became a member just after they opened their doors in early 2016 and they’ve been part of my ongoing research since then. But I haven’t been alone in my efforts since there are several teams developing projects from as diverse as games and music simulators to psychology and education. In celebration, February 17, 2017 was the day when VR First showcased its facilities along with the projects that continue to be the lifeblood of the laboratory. Consider this and the following blurbs about the projects a thank you note to VR1 Bahcesehir and all the teams that make it happen.
Upon the Stage (Working Title) opened for the anniversary party with a mixed reality drum and guitar performance of Sweet Home Alabama. One of the developers played RL guitar while another developer was pounding a VR drum kit with Vive controllers. The VR experience is going to be a game that allows users to learn and perform the drums in a number of settings. Beyond the winning concept, it looks and sounds incredible.
English VR and Happy Lands were two projects being developed by Nesrin and her team. As you imagine, the first is a program for English language instruction and it places users in scenarios that require dialogue in English. After hearing from an avatar, they’re given a list of options for their response. The latter program is meant to simulate the great outdoors for those unable to go outside. In particular, the experience is targeted for children suffering from an illness called Epidermolysis Bullosa, which prevents them going out due to the extreme fragility of their skin.
After the Impact is a steam-punk-fashioned, post-apocalyptic fighter pilot game that uses zeppelins for their combat. Your helium filled combat vessel uses cannons to shoot down an opposing Armada. This was done by a team of five (Umur, Erkan, Cem, Basak, and Volkan).
Anthony presented two of his projects, one was a commissioned team project on Earthquake Preparedness and the second was a sniper game called Finger of Death. The earthquake simulator was made as an educational tool designed to help those experiencing the disaster find the safest location around them. This is helpful since stepping one way or another can mean life or death for the earthquake victim. People experiencing the simulator have claimed to have flashbacks of the 1999 earthquakes in Istanbul, which Anthony took as a sign of success. The sniper game, on the other hand, has players on top of a tower, shooting down little red soldiers rampaging through the city below. The highly innovative twist is that, instead of a rifle — whose non-existence in real life weakens the illusion of sniper-hood, players hold a lens in one hand and they point their finger into it with another to strike their enemies dead. It’s a strange, hard-to-describe mechanic that works amazingly well. But imagine reaching into a rectangular portal to touch an enemy 400m away and immediately killing them; it’s like that; fun.
The View is a project by Can Ugrluoglu that seeks to give a multi-sensory experience to its users. Much of their work is in R & D currently, but the goal is to create spaces (currently a large home) in which visitors will have experience the smells, flavors, heat, wind, and mist found in their visual environment.
Treatment of Acrophobia Using VR is a project led by Asst Professor of Psychology at Bahcesehir University, Turkuler Aka. As the title suggest, the VR experience is meant to expose people to heights, such as elevated rooftops, to help them overcome their fear of those places. The team also works with other commonly-phobic stimuli like spiders.
I’ll only briefly mention my own projects. One is a solo-project that does linguistic analysis of interactions in VR. The second project is done with my research partner Tugce Akkoc and it’s on the effects of VR to the user’s balance, motor control… Both of these will become full articles at a later date, but I will assuredly be at VR First Bahcesehir working on them throughout 2017.