Making Immersive Locations…”Useful”

As creators of an immersive engine, we have the great pleasure of working with many gifted artists – the ones who create offices, classes, meeting spaces, town halls, workshop rooms….the anywhere you need to be enable the business or innovation or education to occur.   We salute these gifted, creative artists who can wield Maya or 3Ds Max, even SketchUp in a mighty ways.  Some of these artists are our staff, some are our partners, and some are our customer’s staffs or consultants.

It is with deep respect that we say….. as talented as you are with your art, kindly take a little advice from we engine creators.  We have 100s of 1000s of users so we see a lot and we create too. Terf®is for enterprise, organizations, governments, universities, by this we mean our users come in to get work done or learn, etc.  Beauty does not trump utility for our customers.   They deserve and want both but the latter, utility, is the most critical.

Follow these 4 design principles to create “useful” virtual locations.

1. Right sizing is good, even critical in some areas:

Yes, having a building facade with a doorway the right relative size to your avatars can really matter…

Guidance:  Put time in to this, create facades that seem real in the right places, don’t let things like desks or doorways or windows or boards be too big or too high…anything that makes the user not forget they aren’t there in person is bad.  A well designed location will enable users to forget they aren’t in person quickly and this trend will continue with our Oculus and other HUD coming down the line this year.

2. Right sizing isn’t good, even harmful in other areas:

Respect, deeply that you are creating a location where close everything that can happen in the physical world can happen in this location.  But, never forget that some things can happen in immersive locations that are impossible in the physical world.

  • An example: in real world, humans cannot look from behind your head (aka in 3rd person).   Well, I suppose with some kind of Rube Goldberg machine (with dentist and bicycle mirrors and a degree from MIT) you might be able to do it.  But, in general my comment stands, humans do not do this in the physical world.  In immersive locations, you want this, it helps with all kinds of things including peripheral vision substation.

Guidance:  Add S-P-A-C-E into your creations, even if this space is not there in the real world.  Virtual real estate is infinite.  Do not make the users of your creations suffer because you build a conference room exactly as it is in the real world dimension-wise.  Do not make those walls so tight in all 4 directions that your users can’t look from behind their head when they get up.  Don’t give your users a headache because the office is right sized and so small that their avatar keeps ‘bamming’ into walls.  And finally, DO NOT put a roof on that is low.  Consider no roof, but for sure push them way way up.

Most users are not Yoda of the controls, they want to get work done or meet with colleagues or learn from the professor.  Give them space and lots of it.

3.  Ingest the relationship between flow and ease of use:

Any experienced , successful designer of locations – physical buildings, urban parks, or virtual locations can tell you that flow is so critical and has an unbreakable impact on ease of use.

Guidance: Here are some things to avoid:

  •   If you place things like screens to be viewed too high up on a wall, your non-Yoda users will have to figure out how to back up to see it or where the darn fly controls are, etc.
  •   If you put obstacles in the pathway from A to B if your users want to get from A to B often.    Don’t make them weird out that they end up walking on a table to get there, that jerks them out of working or learning and makes their brain pay attention to the wrong thing.
  •   If you make openings too small relative to a wall, they will be hard for them to get to.
  •   If you make lovely designs but the stairways are skinny and near click-able seats, guess what, they will end up in seats and frustrate by trying to walk down stairs.   Even if you’re building stadium seating…. Virtual space is infinite, give them some of it.

4. Watch the polygon count on what you drag into your locations:

This one is usually easy to address but a real hit on the end users if you don’t consider itBe mindful that your end users in general probably have lesser laptops, slates, or phones than you do when they enter the location you create.  Placing very heavy objects or images, even if they are lovely, can topple their graphics processing support.  and also images when you place them in the locations you are creatingUnless you are an art student, the message of this blog is you have to create locations users can use to make them … useful 😉

Guidance:  Check the polygon count of objects you create or drag in from stashes like SketchUps 3D warehouse.  We have seen small items, like a desktop phone, not used at all by end users, just there for ascetics, weigh more than an entire room. Some tricks, if you just love a very heavy phone object or the like, are to: recreate it but with less in Terf®or in your tool of choice, try a snapshot on a wall or cube if you can make it work, or remove what you don’t need. If it goes on a wall, remove the back tiny bits that won’t show, sometimes those are 80% of the weight…think sneaky like this to be lighter!

  • Reduce images before using them – it is so easy to do this in Photoshop, just use the Save for Web tool and reduce it – reduce it a lot if its HD, the end users won’t care… unless they do and if they do, understand why and make it so.

I am for beautiful locations and reflective locations!   I want no location that isn’t stunning.   But our customers need utility AND beauty!  If you keep these principles in mind, you can create great spaces not just beautiful spaces.