At PreviewLabs, we specialize in rapid prototyping for game technology-related projects. Many of these projects focus on testing gameplay ideas and figuring out the optimal user experience of a concept. In most cases, the source code of these prototypes isn’t re-used in the final product. So what’s the point, you might ask? Well, this brings up today’s topic of discussion: the technical proof of concept (PoC).
“We’re excited to be able to release details on the following six projects for the first time.”
In a technical PoC, we tackle a technical challenge for a game technology based application, usually using the Unity game engine, and prove that the solution works in a prototype. When our work is done, we deliver the source code we created in tackling the issue, which can then be integrated directly into the source code of the full application. This way, we are able to focus 100% on the technically challenging parts for our clients, while leaving the integration work to those developing the actual application. This allows our clients to leverage our extensive experience with Unity and get the most bang for their buck.
Over the years, we worked on a number of these technical PoCs and we’re excited to be able to release details on the following six projects for the first time.
1. Tools for VR Experience Prototyping (2016)
In 2016, we created a technical proof of concept for Experience The Pulse, a Sydney based creative agency (which has meanwhile been rebranded as Curiious). As they were doing video production, a logical step with the advent of VR was to start with 360 video production. At one point, however, their clients started showing interest in more interactive uses of VR, while they didn’t have a team of in-house Unity developers yet. This is where we came into the picture.
We developed a system in Unity to allow them to define limited interactivity without any programming knowledge, tailored to the needs of several of their clients. The system we developed for them essentially helped them build their own prototypes to target a range of markets, from aviation to financial services.
The resulting easy-to-use tool we created allowed them to specify events and actions in the Unity editor, giving them control over what would happen in the VR experience.
2. Plane and Simple 360 Video Navigation (2019)
In 2019, Brussels Airlines created a VR experience with Cousteau Studio where you can take a tour in one of their airplanes. Some elements in this VR plane are interactive – you can unfold the tray table in one seat, for instance. Since high quality 360 videos take up a lot of disk space, which is not always desirable for people downloading a mobile app, we helped create the VR environment with the use of a 360° pre-rendered image. In this image, we placed video files in the places where the user can interact with objects. This way, each interaction with an object in the airplane is a short video that starts playing within the 360° environment. The hardest part in getting this to work was making sure there were no seams between the videos and the image.
3. Augmenting Pictures with Virtual Awnings (2017)
Winsol, a Belgian company which manufactures products such as awnings and windows (not the Microsoft kind of Windows) offers a a smartphone application to preview what an awning would look like at the buyer’s place of business or home. In this augmented reality (AR) app, you take a picture of the window in question and place the 3D model of the awning above it. Because they wanted to also allow showing awnings on top of a pre-existing image (which is not typical for augmented reality applications), the app developer Kraken KT reached out to us. We helped solve the issue of properly putting the long, narrow object in the right perspective. After you take a picture, our technical PoC lets the user position and turn the awning into the position they like along the borders of the window.
4. Defying Physics in VR Paragliding (2018)
In the Belgian science and experience center Technopolis, we helped create a VR paragliding demo alongside Enriched, a sister company of PreviewLabs within the Cronos Groep. In this demo, you sit in a paragliding harness that is elevated a bit above the ground. You then put on a HTC Vive Pro headset which places you in a beautiful 3D landscape, not unlike the Alps. The challenge we had to tackle here, was getting the virtual physics to react to the real movements of the user in the paragliding harness. We were able to do this thanks to three HTC Vive Trackers and the headset itself. We coded the paragliding physics to interact with that hardware, then this source code was directly implemented in the demo.
5. Controlling a Helicopter Using Sound (2013)
Our technical PoCs aren’t always VR or AR-based. For Mission Critical Studios, we created a technical PoC for a small infrared-controlled helicopter. We wrote elements of the code for an application on your smartphone, that lets you control this helicopter through an infrared-transmitter plugged in to your headphone jack. The source code we built was eventually used in an app for the Air Hogs Heli Replay by Spin Master.
6. Technical PoCs for Digital Twins in VU.City (2016)
In 2016, Wagstaffs asked us to help them out on VU.City, an application that city planners can use to look at the direct impact of a new addition to an existing city – like London or Dublin – examining the effect of a such a tall new building on the surrounding neighborhoods, for example. PreviewLabs built various technical PoCs for this software, which allows its users to experiment with so-called ‘Digital Twins’ of cities.
One of these technical PoCs made it possible to easily create shapes in the digital urban environment that can function as tall buildings. This allows the users to draw polygons on the virtual city’s ground and extrude them into a tall object, reminiscent of a building. The users could observe and compare the impact that differently shaped buildings may have on the skyline and the neighborhood.
Looking for a technical proof of concept for your project?
The key is that all of the above examples started with a concrete challenge. From controlling RC toys with a smartphone to placing an awning in AR, each challenge takes creativity and technical expertise. Time after time, we prove our solutions work with a technical PoC. Do you also have a challenge for us? We’d gladly help you out.