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Cisco4321

Real-time data flow into Unity & VR?

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Hello! 

 

I am a graphic/UI designer for a group in the Washington DC area. Recently my company has taken a stab into the brand-new world of virtual reality and is currently exploring how VR can add value to our current service offerings. 

 

In an attempt to avoid getting bogged down with details, I will give a brief example of our current project: 

 

Client & Need: Agency that moderates status of assets (vehicles). They need to give weekly briefings and presentations to high-level executives to give a quick and comprehensive visibility into availability of assets and status of repair efforts -- (how many vehicles are ready to go vs. how many are down with technical issues).

 

Pitch: Create an organizational system in Unity & VR that allows the team and leadership to experience an interactive and visual presentation of vehicle availability. This would include an interactive system that would pull accurate and real-time data from a remote server or CMS, translating it into the visual presentation. This way, the VR experience gives accurate data, without the need to hard code any changed info into Unity every time a change is made to the data. 

 

Why VR you ask? The client already has a 2D version of this system I previously explained. VR elements would allow the client to give an immersive snapshot of the company in a mobile, engaging, and visually compelling way. Who doesn't want to feel like Tom Cruise when they go to work every day?

 

I would LOVE to get anyone's feedback/thoughts on this idea. Is this possible? Do you see feasibility in developing a tool like this? My primary concern is whether or not Unity can pull data from a server through JSON or AJAX, and interpret it into the application every time it is run. 

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Is this possible? Do you see feasibility in developing a tool like this? My primary concern is whether or not Unity can pull data from a server through JSON or AJAX, and interpret it into the application every time it is run. 
 

 

Yes, it is possible. There are tools to pull data from Unity itself, and if that doesn't work, the .net framework is available which can provide additional options.

 

 

Feasability, as in "will people be interested in this", that is a different matter entirely.  Personally I cannot imagine putting on VR headsets one at a time as the executives go around the room to look at bar charts.  If instead it was 3D images and 3D models of damage and repairs that would be something else.  But simply to look at charts and graphs? Not really interesting to me.

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@frob - I should have embellished on our idea for the system itself. I agree, bar charts would be super boring! 

 

The program would allow you to rotate, zoom, break apart to reveal internal components, and inspect a 3D model of the vehicles. It would highlight specific parts that need updating/repairs, pop-up notifications, etc. We really have no shortage of ideas of how this program could look visually engaging. Do we have the developmental capabilities to pull it off... that remains to be seen!

Thanks so much for your feedback. 

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I used to do knowledge and information management for the US military. This kind of stuff was my thing back in the day. My initial intuition says that this absolutely should not be a VR project. My feasibility assessment red flags are going off here. This needs to be a spreadsheet or a database app. Why? Because it is the simplest, cheapest and fastest solution and it seems to satisfy the needs. VR is a trap.

Let's put it another way... you want to take an existing 2D presentation of data and create a 3D presentation of that same data. Forget about VR for a moment and try to think about what the "value add" is by having the data presented in 3D. Let's say it costs $15,000 to $30,000 in labor hours to develop. How do you get a return on the investment? What kinds of decisions could be made within a 3D view that couldn't be made in a 2D view? So, if you can sit down and think long and hard about the business feasibility, the benefits, and the costs, and make a good case for it, then you can invest more time studying the need and solution. Then you can look at what additional value add you get if you are viewing the data in VR.

In your case, when you add in "VR", you're really talking about just viewing 3D models with stereoscopic goggles. Once the wow factor for VR wears off, what are you really getting that a spreadsheet couldn't deliver? And aside from the financial development cost, does it cost more time to get the same data or does it speed things up? Are there ways to present the existing data better on a spreadsheet or chart? What happens if the report needs to be changed? Who will maintain the project and keep it relevant to business needs as they change? Maintaining a spreadsheet takes very little training. A secretary could do that. But maintaining a VR app takes a very rare skillset, and that translates to expensive.

As far as the technical feasibility side goes, I'm thinking that pulling the data from a data feed into unity wouldn't be too difficult. If you have a SQL database, you could probably just do direct SQL queries and then use unity / C# to display the data in a meaningful way. It would be a lot more efficient than parsing a JSON file.

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@Slaymin, 

 

Thanks for the feedback! I work in a very similar field, so I really appreciate the insight into your experience in projects of this nature. 

 

I agree completely that perhaps an optimized or re-designed 2D platform for this project would be an easier and cheaper option. It would certainly save us many hours of development and troubleshooting. 

 

I think my team has a unique opportunity to test the feasibility of VR interactivity in that our client is very much on board with exploring new technology, however like you mentioned, we will need to make a strong case for VR and its value add if this project is ever meant to see the light of day. VR certainly has a long way to go in terms of ease of use and development practices, but if anything it is exciting to be a part of a budding platform.

 

Thanks again!

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To me it seems like the only thing youll gain from this project is experience with VR development, so the future potential of having that experience available for other projects should have a big role in the reasoning for why this specific project should happen. Of course applies to any non-VR new things you have to learn or build to support it.


And like you said its plain cool and thus might increase workplace happiness/motivation and so on.
If this VR thing is something publicly visible, then it might improve your brand in some way I guess, and thats probably profitable (you can always use this reasoning to do cool/good things that arent directly profitable).


If you are just viewing some 3D models, VR wont add much.
If you are actually doing something 3D with the hand controllers, maybe VR will make it easier than using the mouse.


But even if you can find that subset of functionality where VR+hand controllers are optimal, theres still additional overhead to putting the thing on.


Also consider the feature/issue of hiding the real world when in VR. Does that give you increased focus on whatever youre doing inside VR (beneficial), or does it make communication or multitasking harder than necessary (bad)

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