Affinity: Virtual Laboratories for Professionals
Affinity: Virtual Laboratories for Professionals
Affinity combines virtual and physical environments to stimulate creativity and trigger the imagination within a collaborative platform
Affinity combines virtual and physical environments to stimulate creativity and trigger the imagination within a collaborative platform Read more
About this project
View the project video at: http://youtu.be/gDvjqhtBeYQ
View the uncut discussion at: http://youtu.be/1-YAXb56EuU
Link to alpha release, environmental prototype, can be found at the bottom of the page.
Inhabitation of the virtual environment is at an all time high. According to Jane McGonigal, the earth’s population chooses to spend 3 billion hours a week gaming within a virtual environment. At the same time global education standards are falling, productivity is decreasing, and mental disorders related to the lack of physical and emotional activity are rising. Disciplines have become so specialized, and so esoteric, that members of different fields struggle to communicate and collaboration suffers. The relationship between the physical and the virtual is limited, for now, by the restriction of the screen. It is difficult to inhabit virtual space from within the physical environment without the use of projection. Transference of virtual objects into the physical realm remains nearly impossible even though transference of physical objects into the virtual environment requires relatively simple technology that many people already possess.
Affinity relies on the freedoms of the virtual environment to create tailor-made environments for each user. These environments are specifically designed to stimulate creativity and trigger the imagination, while mitigating any adverse mental conditions such as anxiety and stress. In this way Affinity balances the playing field so that when two users come together in one of its labs the only thing between them is their ideas and experiences. This will promote communication and therefore increase collaboration and innovation. Affinity will provide simple tools to both professionals and enthusiasts which aid them in making educated responses to project demands. These tools will rely on easily understood, graphic and icon based Morphic interfaces which turn complex problems into games that can be beaten through adventure and play. Advanced users will be able to take advantage of the open source API for development of plug ins to tailor Affinity to their specific needs. Affinity will behave as a massively multi-player online role playing game (MMORPG). Game play in Affinity will exist within a world divided into a large number of labs and a common area referred to as the lobby. These labs are accessible to the user through his or her home screen or by piloting an avatar around the lobby and connecting with project leaders. The home screen is the user's entry point to the virtual environment. Here the user has access to names and descriptions of all labs and who is currently participating in them. The purpose of this element is to expose players to topics currently under development which they may not have heard of prior to exploring Affinity. The lobby is a common area where people can go to ask questions from other characters (both players and non-player characters), seek positions within project teams, or look for players with specific talents for current projects.
"A physiological response. That’s exactly what we want to create. We’re after the energy that sweeps over you after watching an awe-inspiring film or the sensation in the soles of you feet when you look at that sky-high ledge. Do you know that feeling of being sure that at that moment you are exactly where you need to be? This is what "Affinity" intends to bring into the workplace, augmented with tools that allow interaction and collaboration at a pace and quality no one has ever seen before."
- Bryan Estill, Team Member
Oculus Rift VR goggles (HUD) equipped with binocular imaging sensors are used to immerse the user in the virtual environment while allowing the user to switch between virtual reality and augmented reality modes. While in either modes these additional sensors allow for gesture based control of the virtual environment. Headphones with microphones are used to transfer sound between realities. Cameras and imaging sensors may be used by advanced users for 3D scanning of physical objects into virtual meshes, facial recognition, skeletal tracking, and teleconferencing through the development of project specific plug ins. To transfer objects (those with mass or those which contain an event or motion) from the virtual environment to the physical, advanced users may develop plug ins to link a collection of digital technology is used including 3D printers, CNC routers, robotic arms, drones, etc. Any machine that can be controlled remotely using digital technology can potentially be connected to the system and controlled through simulation of its virtual counterpart.
Development of Affinity is performed in C# .NET 4.0. All virtual objects are created in Autodesk Maya and compiled using Unity3D. The application received from Unity3D may run on independent workstations but Affinity can only be played in single player (single player interacting with NPCs) this way. To achieve the massively multi-player effect we desire, Affinity will need to be submitted uploaded to a server. We are looking at the possibility of using Steam, an online gaming community operated by Valve. Within Steam users will log in with their Steam username and password, download Affinity and create their profile. It is also possible that Affinity will be developed as a web app allowing it to run natively on a large number of browsers. For the Beta release we are hoping to have a fully functioning SDK and API for the creation of third party plug ins. In this way we hope to incorporate consoles within game play to operate a large number of work related software such as, Autodesk Maya, Rhinoceros, Catia, Mathematica, Autodesk Revit, Visual Studio, Eclipse, Modo, zBrush, Processing, etc. from within the game environment.
"Affinity" is already seeing action in the real world. To date it's platform has been used to develop a world design for a feature film, present architectural projects to critics at SCI-Arc, and soon we hope that a prominent philosophy and neuroscience team will be using "Affinity" in their research on emotion and neural physiology."
- Nels Long Assoc. AIA, Team Leader
Affinity will provide a fully immersive virtual environment specifically tailored to individual users to stimulate creativity and trigger the imagination. To generate this environment Affinity requires the user provide specific information about their life. This information covers locations inhabited, travel history, climate and temperature preferences, and psychological factors such as phobias and anxiety. From these entries an algorithm selects the correct configuration of environmental elements for that player. The primary means employed by Affinity for stimulating its users is scalar shifting. This effect puts the player in an environment of a different scale than his or her profile determines they are accustomed. Imagine yourself exploring the particles of an atom, or being exposed to the vastness of the Cosmos, and everything in between. The result is meditative and introspective. While Affinity can only provide the player with light and sound, certain combinations of these will be used to recall past experiences such as the beauty of a thunderstorm on the prairie or the sound of waves on the beach. Development of Affinity began with an intensive analysis of games, game theory and game evolution. Lessons learned from these studies will be used to inform game play that relies on the aspects of discovery, exploration and play that contribute to learning and development. Problem solving, pattern recognition and crowd-sourcing attributes also are intended to increase it's success. It is our desire that Affinity become a platform used by members of all disciplines to gain a new perspective of their work and to design and implement new experiments previously unimagined!
The design and development of Affinity is being pursued by a team specifically chosen for their skills and experience in completing the unique problems involved with a project like Affinity.
Nels Long, Project Designer & Team Leader
Nels Long is educated as an architect working toward licensure while pursuing an advanced degree in Emerging Systems, Technology and Media at the Southern California Institute of Architecture. For the past six years he has been fascinated with the link between architecture and virtual reality. Recently this fascination has developed into an exploration of how spaces can be designed to interact differently with people who have different needs. One example of this is designing spaces specific to the understanding and treatment of people with Autism, General Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). In an office environment how can these tools be used to increase productivity through the mitigation of stress and fatigue. How can this hybrid environment bring together people of varying backgrounds to increase cooperation and incubate innovation? Experience with such systems began under the tutelage of Pliny Fisk III at the Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems (CMPBS) in Austin, Texas. Here, Nels specialized on projects taking advantage of both virtual and physical game systems for coordination of community members for community designs in developing nations.
Scott Terry, Lead Software Developer
Lindsay Franta, Film, Urban Design & Ontological Consultant
With a degree in film from the American University in Paris and a Masters degree in Urban Design from the Bartlett School of Design in London, Lindsay Franta supplies the Affinity design team with insight into the ontological responsibilities of the project. She is specifically interested in social influences of space and the effect that space (public, built environment, spontaneous interacting spaces) has on community and social organization. She focuses on the transition between environment and mind through the concept of place (involving culture and consciousness). Such as, how perception and social relationships are developed; mental concepts and expectation compared to social adaptations. She is interested in exploring notions of consciousness, place, sustainability, community and other art forms and how they interact. This is apparent in her research at The Bartlett on the psychology of space and boundaries. What are the physical constructs of a space and how they psychologically affect people in the space? How do the people think of the space – is it visual/social/cultural? Is it dirty/clean? How the relationships between culture, consciousness and space have different effects on the individual, social interactions and society?
Bryan Estill, Biomedical Consultant
For the last 20 or so years I have lived in Mississippi. Its an incredible place with its own unique history and mind-blowing cultural richness. Growing up in Mississippi provided many opportunities however, the state often finds itself in a shortage of experts in a given field and fellow students often come from severely educationally disadvantaged backgrounds. Interacting with distant persons via the Internet has always been an outlet for me. Affinity VR will take it to a new level. Currently, I am second year allopathic medical student. Previous to my current studies, I became involved in the fields of biochemistry, molecular biology, and sociology. Furthermore, I am a tireless digital tinkerer. I’ve often found it somewhat difficult to integrate my passion for people and sociology into my broader, hard- science pursuits. Afinity will allow me to do it. I envision Afinity as a platform to allow novices and professionals alike to interact at an unprecedented pace while demolishing the traditional barriers of travel, hierarchy, and chance-interaction. Conferences restricted to certain disciplines or even interests are not enough and there are many financial and geographical restrictions innate to the process. Perhaps cocktail parties are a close second and these rely on people often of similar backgrounds having a chance meeting. It is not enough. Affinity VR will provide the space needed to facilitate valuable interaction on persons distanced by virtually any factor.
Explore A Non-VR Environmental Sample At (No Oculus Rift Required): www.sbdl.us/alpha_environment.html
This release is not intended to express the final quality or aesthetical choice for Affinity. The Alpha release is intended to help us begin working within the virtual environment to identify environmental elements that can be used towards to completing our mission.
Help me develop the algorithm for environmental generation by downloading this PDF and completing it with your responses to the example environments available above. Once complete please rename according to "last_first_date.pdf" and email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Specific beta release features included:
- Backend Architecture, API & SDK for third-party developers to create plugins to increase Affinity's functionality through the plugins tab and the console features of the GUI.
- User specific environment generator.
- Affinity Toolset for exchange of ideas through play (see description above).
- Public Lobby, Virtual Laboratory, and Home Screens designed and navigable through advanced user interface design.
- Avatar Generator for creation of player characters within Affinity.
- Online multiplayer functionality in first or third person.
- Open Source.
Risks and challenges
Our schedule for design and development of Affinity contains a release date of December 13th 2013 for our Alpha Release. On this day a link to the Alpha (Oculus Rift required) will be made available to all Kickstarter backers who have donated $10 or more. The Alpha release will not encompass the total functionality or aesthetic quality of the final product. Instead it is being pushed to be available as soon as possible to get Affinity in the hands of users and begin to generate feedback. The intent of this program is to promote collaboration, after all.
Functionality within the Alpha is limited to:
-7 Example Environments
-Simulated Informational Displays (not the real time updates intended for the final release)
-User selected environments rather than algorithmically tailored maps.
-None of the Morphic tools
-Limited NPC interactivity
The ability to develop Affinity beyond this stage is entirely dependent upon the success of this campaign. Currently work is being done by one programmer who is in charge of all the interactive components, and myself working on all the design and CG elements. To take Affinity to the state described above more team members will need to be hired with more advanced skill sets.
If funded the largest obstacle to overcome will be the environment generation console and the algorithm that controls it. I have already made great steps towards the design of this algorithm but to implement it a large database will need to be set up to handle the entries of the users. This will be very time and programming intensive. This database will also be necessary for all interaction with NPC's. I plan to hire an expert in the area if funded.
Equally as difficult will be the design and implementation of the Morphic toolset. In its inception it will exist as a plugin available with the final release and appear similar in appearance and functionality to the now defunct Block Editor in Google's App Inventor and David Rutin's Grasshopper plug in for Rhino 3D. Difficulty here will be more restricted to the design end. Designing components that can be customized to solve a variety of problems and maintaining the aspect of play will be difficult but I have experience in designing similar pattern-recognition games for problem solving and many peers in my network available for support.
Our goal is to have a Beta Release of Affinity available to the public by September 1st 2014. My campaign goal represents what I have determined I will need to pay specialists and purchase the necessary product licences based on conversations had with my team members.The intention for Affinity is that it be completely open-source once it reaches its Beta Release. Even so I have taken steps to protect its image and my investment until then through trademark registration. The cost of this was also included in my budget.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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