Virtual Reality Research & Development

Peter Stanley Hollander.43

Artistic / Creative Endeavours

 

Using the money granted to me by the STEP program, I have furthered my research and development in the field of virtual reality.  Since applying to the program, I have attended multiple industry conferences on the West Coast, received exclusive hardware training and certification by industry leaders, presented our company’s hardware and spoke at a conference based in Hollywood, and now expanding and exploring various relationships with big names in the VR industry; all whilst tackling the process of bringing our commercial hardware, Talaria, to market.  The funding by STEP specifically contributed towards part of the cost of the professional hardware training.

I’ve become a lot more confident in my creative capabilities since the start of this project.  Just because I haven’t taken any formal coursework in the fields of hardware and software engineering doesn’t mean that I’m incapable of solving problems in that field, and in many cases doing so professionally.  Because of the seemingly insurmountable obstacles I have overcome and comprehended, my will-power and confidence is ever-growing from continued development of this project; and my portfolio continues to grow and strengthen with it.

Over the past year or so of development, I’ve had a lot of pivotal moments take me further down the path I’m still travelling on today.  Our first big validation was attending Unity’s Vision Summit 2016 in Hollywood, CA back in February of that year.  It was at this conference that I first publicly shared Talaria with the world, following the submission of our provisional patent application.  Five key experiences I had at Vision 2016 were:

  1. Valve had an “Oprah” moment and gave all present developers a free high-end virtual reality headset, enabling me to actively develop for the HTC Vive at all times.
  2. The US Navy requested a quote for purchasing some development kits of our hardware.
  3. The lead of innovations at NASA JPL expressed interest in my work, and the two of us have remained in touch since.
  4. A Valve employee told me that our hardware is a dead-end and will only make people sick.  That was huge advice that I took to heart as a challenge to succeed, and it’s been a fantastic driving force since.
  5. A fellow virtual reality developer invited me into an online VR dev community.  This community has been thriving and creates a fantastic network of friends and developers that I wouldn’t trade for the world.

Following Vision Summit, I continued further developing our hardware.  Eventually, I was invited to attend Steam Development Days hosted by Valve in Seattle, WA.  The conference was hosted in November, and it was here that I was able to meet with a lot of the developers I had befriended from that online community, as well as be able to network with folks that have had experience at companies such as Valve and HTC.  It was at Dev Days that I met the first person to have already known who I was and what Talaria was prior to us meeting; that was very exciting!

A few weeks later, I returned to Seattle to receive my training and certification from Valve to design tracked objects for their virtual reality motion capture system, colloquially referred to as “Lighthouse”.  I began blogging about this experience, and the development community really seemed to appreciate the work I was documenting.  This licensure has helped me be taken more seriously by other developers and companies, as well as given me an experience as to how professional companies operate in this development space.

Still continuing on with development, more recently now, we were offered the opportunity to bring our hardware and exhibit it at Unity’s Vision Summit 2017, again in Hollywood, CA.  This happened at the beginning of May, and having the chance to be set up in a booth alongside huge names like Microsoft and Google was amazing for us.  I was able to give a 30 minute talk on hardware development, after which multiple devs came up to me seeking advice.  And on the showroom floor, we had many people come and try out / talk with us about our hardware; quite a few of which from rather notable companies, such as HTC and Disney.  Following the conference itself, we took a trip up to Pasadena to receive a tour of NASA JPL, following up with my contact from last year’s Summit.  Beyond that, we returned to Seattle and had a chance to discuss our hardware with Valve and receive their input on our development.

Finally, looking forward, we have plans to return once more to Seattle and demo our further iterated hardware to Valve and HTC.  I am very much looking forward to what the future will bring!!

This experience has opened my eyes to the importance of self-motivation and pursuing passions in life.  I think that the most valuable aspect that I’m learning from this process is how unnecessary continuing my college education is at this point.  I’ve proven that I don’t need formal coursework to learn high-level concepts, and I certainly don’t need a degree to make it in this industry.  I need creativity and drive, and I’ve definitely found that through working in the field of virtual reality.  So while I may be halting my college education, I think this discovery process has taught me a lot about myself and offered me a chance to take a step back from what is considered conventional, and allow me to pursue what really matters to me an fulfills me in life.

For more information and continued posts on our hardware’s development, feel free to read up on my blog at www.talariavr.com/blog.

Regards,

Peter S. Hollander

Moments – A Documentary

Name: Taylor Thomas

Type of Project: Artistic and Creative Endeavors
1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project. Write two or three sentences describing the main activities your STEP Signature Project entailed.

My project consisted of creating a documentary centered on life changing moments. I interviewed a total of 15 people about a life changing moment in their life and how this moment has since impacted them. These interviews were then compiled into my finished documentary.

2. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project? Write one or two paragraphs to describe the change or transformation that took place.
When I first started my STEP project, I was a Neuroscience major bent on going to medical school and becoming a doctor (specifically a psychiatrist). But as I began working on this project and began to hear the stories of how the people I interviewed have had their lives transformed, I began to reflect on my own life changing moments. Through this time of reflection, I realized that I was not passionate about medicine and no longer wanted to become a doctor. Becoming a doctor was something I could do, but it wasn’t something that I wanted to do. I knew I was still passionate about mental health, and realized later that pursuing a PhD in clinical psychology better fit my desired goals, so I switched my major to psychology this past year. Additionally, after seeing how traumatic events can have such an impact on a person’s life, I now aspire to specialize in helping those with PTSD and other trauma related mental health conditions in my future educational pursuits.
This project also strengthened my view that every person in this world has a story to tell. The scope of some of these stories was explored over the course of completing my documentary and truly opened my eyes to how people can impact each other. I have come to realize how all people are on a journey in life and that everyone has been shaped by past experiences they have had, for better or for worse.

3. What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you? Write three or four paragraphs describing the key aspects of your experiences completing your STEP Signature Project that led to this change/transformation.
As mentioned previously, I interviewed a total of 15 people for my project. Of these people, a few stuck out to me and played a major role in transforming my educational and professional career goals as well as my views of the world. One of these people was a girl that I went to high school with, but hadn’t really talked to much since she graduated the year before me. She shared with me how she had become addicted to drugs and as a result of that, she had been in a physically abusive relationship. She described the physical altercation in which she decided she had finally had enough and left her then boyfriend to go get sober. Since then, she has met a guy who treats her well and she now has a beautiful baby girl who she loves more than anything.
This interview stuck out to me in that it sparked a desire in my heart to help those who have gone through similar traumatic experiences. At that point, I had already switched my major to psychology and had a PhD in clinical psychology in mind for graduate school, but this event was still significant in that it led me to decide what in particular I wanted to specialize in. It allowed me to realize that I wanted to focus my education on learning how to help individuals recover from traumatic experiences.
Another interview that helped transform me was the interview I did with my sister. She told the story of when she found her dog Louie in a dumpster and how she had rescued him. He had been thrown in the dumpster along with a litter of puppies, though most of them had died. My sister had thought that Louie too would die, but somehow, he survived and now serves as her service dog. This story taught me that no matter what has happened to you, no matter where you come from, there is always hope in the future. No one expected Louie to survive, yet here he is, alive and well.
4. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life? Write one or two paragraphs discussing why this change or development matters and/or relates to your academic, personal, and/or professional goals and future plans.
During the year I took to complete this project, I was going through a transitional phase in life where I wasn’t entirely sure if I wanted to continue down the educational and career path I had chosen for myself. Creating this documentary and hearing stories of life changing moments, though, allowed me to realize what I was truly passionate about and what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. This experience has been crucial in helping to shape my goal of becoming a clinical psychologist. Personally, it has also helped affirm and strengthen my view of others as individuals with a story to tell. It has shown me that experiences have an impact on who we are and who we become, though negative experiences don’t necessarily have to define us. This project has shown me that there is hope in the future and that you can overcome adversity. These views and beliefs are essential for not only my future profession in helping others overcome adversity, but also in my personal life as I face challenges day to day.

To watch the finished documentary or to watch individual interviews, check out my project’s youtube channel:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCrDPjjageAgvlkotd1SUCfw

Beekeeping

The main goal of my signature project was to establish two hives of honey bees in Bethel, Ohio. The hives serve as a practical application of what I have learned in my entomology studies at Ohio State as part of my minor.

Working with my hives has shown me that knowledge comes from a combination of formal and practical education. The beekeeping course I participated in on campus laid an amazing foundation of formal education for my project. Everything after that has come as a result of finding what works for me and my bees. I’ve talked to other bee enthusiasts, seasoned beekeepers, online forums, and registered apiarists as part of this project as well as aided a neighbor in setting up his first hive. Sometimes school can seem endless and the knowledge gained pointless, but there is practicality at the end of the tunnel.

While beekeeping is usually seen as a niche hobby, start-up is more based in capital than effort. Bees want for very little in the grand scheme of things. It is the job of the keeper to set them up right and monitor their health. Everything else is left up to the bees. I tried to start my bees off as well as possible. I chose a location at my home in rural Bethel that would provide the hives with everything they needed. It is essentially the textbook definition of a good hive location. They receive a minimum of 8 hours of direct sunlight a day, are located near quality pollen and nectar sources throughout the growing season, have a close source of fresh water, and are in an area with excellent drainage. In class, we covered these aspects of hive placement and their importance to the hive’s success. Many diseases and parasites that are found in bee hives are the result of suboptimal placement. Diseases that can destroy the entire hive- such as foulbrood disease- need moisture to proliferate. Adequate drainage wound the hive reduces incidence of foulbrood spores successfully reproducing. Pests such a varroa mites are unable to reproduce in warm hives. Bees themselves produce heat which helps to regulate where in the hive these mites will be successful, but long exposure of the hive body to sunlight also helps keep the internal temperature high without as much energy expenditure form the bees. We also discussed the wide range of resources that need to be readily available. Growing seasons of plants do not necessarily coincide with the needs of any particular hive. Because of this, it is in a beekeeper’s best interest to have pollen and nectar sources that are producing during the span of annual hive activity. My bees are situated near nectar sources such as honey locust trees, apple trees, and butterfly bushes as well as pollen sources such as dandelions and corn. Each of these plants produces pollen or nectar at varying times which allows for continual harvest throughout the season.

After location was determined and a deposit was placed on the packages, supplies were needed. A majority of my funding went toward the actual hive bodies. The goal was to start 2 hives with supplies available to give each hive 4 boxes. As a lab activity in the beekeeping course, we perused various beekeeping supply catalogs and, with a list of necessary basic provided by the professor, were tasked with getting everything needed for hive startup at the lowest price. That particular exercise was extremely helpful in getting what I needed while staying within my STEP budget. What arrived in those BetterBee supply packages was the biggest time commitment of my project. 8 unassembled boxes, 80 unassembled frames, and no school breaks between delivery and bee pick-up. Luckily, during a rain day for the practical (outdoors, in the hives) lab portion of the class, we learned to assemble boxes and frames. Frames take a bit more finesse to put together as they bear a heavy load when drawn out and filled in by the bees. My dad picked up on this quickly was an enormous help in assembling all of this. With his help, all the necessary boxes and frames were assembled in time for the bees to be installed.

Installation to the present has been the fun part of my learning experience. The day of installation went smoothly. The bees remained relatively calm throughout the process and took well to their new space. Since installation, the county apiarist has come for an inspection. One hive is doing astoundingly well. The other is struggling. Hive 2’s queen is currently MIA. She has either died or is being replaced due to poor performance. The hive is currently focused on raising a new queen and collecting nectar for honey production. When the new queen is established, the hive mentality will shift toward raising brood. It is currently a waiting game for me. Hives are checked every 3-4 weeks for health monitoring but are otherwise left alone. Whenever I have had questions or issues with my budding apiary, I have been able to reach out to my professor with questions or problems. He has been a great help to get them off the ground and keeping them in good health.

As a student whose learning style straddles the line of visual and kinesthetic, practical application of the concepts I learn in the classroom is extremely important to me. Something like beekeeping isn’t something that can truly be taught or learned without the application. The success of my hives (at least one of them) is extremely validating for my studies. Schoolwork is much more than schoolwork when it has real life experiences to back it up. This project has renewed my academic fervor because it allowed a glimpse into the opportunities I will have to apply my knowledge outside the classroom and after graduation.

Beekeeping supplies before installation

~1/2 of one of the packages (1 package= 10-15K bees)

Recent photo of my struggling hive

 

Mt. Rainier Climb – Zack Dinsmore

Thanks to STEP, I was able to travel to Seattle during my summer break to successfully summit Mt. Rainier. The semester beforehand was spent training for the climb and getting into the best shape of my life in order to make it to the summit. During the climb, I worked with fellow climbers and guides to keep each other safe by practicing proper rope spacing and self-arresting techniques.

For most of my life I have done things by the book, so to say. I haven’t taken any crazy trips or gone on vacations by myself. I have always just done what I was “supposed to do” in life. One thing I learned while on this climb was that there is more to life than just going to school, getting a degree, and working the rest of your life. I always thought that all I wanted was a stable job for the rest of my life but Rainier made me question what I want out of life. It made me really think about what I love to do, and if I can accomplish that with my current life plan. With working an office job 40 hours a week, I only really have time to travel and explore the world on the weekends. At this point in my life that doesn’t seem like enough time. This STEP project really made me value every moment I have, and to try to make the most of it.

My STEP project also made me re-evaluate what success looks like. Before this project I viewed success as the classic “American Dream” of success, a big house, a nice car, and a well-paying job. Rainier made me think about how success isn’t the same for everyone. It is more important to live a fulfilling life in your eyes that it is to have what a generic version of success might be. It made me realize that there are many things I want to do in my life that fall outside of this “idealized” view of success. I have a greater appreciation for the simpler aspects of life.

One of the key interactions I had was with a fellow climber I met, Chris. Chris was 53 years old and an ultra-marathon runner who was attempting to summit Mt. Rainier with me. It was great listening to Chris because he talked a lot about doing what you love in life. He retired early from his job as a business analyst and now works at a running shop near his home. He decided that his job wasn’t what he enjoyed doing and instead just works an in environment where he can talk to other runners all day long. I think this conversation with Chris was one that affected me the most because I had never thought about doing something similar to this. I just always assumed I would be doing computer science related work the rest of my life but Chris’s story made me reconsider that. I am now thinking that I want to do something like Chris, except possibly be a guide.

Another aspect of the trip that really affected me was the difficulty of the climb. While it was easy to run and practice other cardio activities in Ohio, it was very difficult to train for the altitude. On the climb as we neared 14,000 feet I could feel the measly amount of air I was taking in with each breath. It made every step a challenge and this struggle made me really appreciate what I had done. It gave me such satisfaction completing the climb. I was in no way gifted the summit of Mt. Rainier, it was due to my own training that I was able to make it to the top and it was a different kind of success than other successes I have had it my life.

Another relationship I formed was with the guide Casey, who has been guiding trips up Mt. Rainier for 20 years. Casey fell in love with mountaineering after he was done with high school and decided to be a guide for his career path. Before this trip it really hadn’t occurred to me that you would be able to travel and get to do things like climb mountains without a well-paying college job. However, after meeting Casey I realized that he is doing what he loves and getting to travel around the world and be outside with nature all the time. It made me realize that there might be some point in my life where I no longer want to sit at a desk all day and that I will want to be outside enjoying nature. Casey was also the person who really pushed me on the trip and made the climb so worth it.

This transformation is beneficial to both my personal and professional goals. Personally I think I have found something I really enjoy doing and have a new hobby that I will pursue in the future. Professionally, I think it made me realize that a work life balance is something I need in my life. While working 60/hours a week at a startup sounded fun to me before this trip, I think I would get burnt out quickly with this lifestyle. It also makes me want to work harder in those 40 hours a week I have at work in order to get my projects done and get to go home early. The biggest transformation that I will take away from this project is how I value my time.

Maker Faire Bay Area 2017

Emily Payne

Attendance of Maker Faire in San Fransisco, CA

For my Artistic/Creative endeavor project I attended a Maker Faire in San Francisco. This is an exciting showcase in which makers from multiple career backgrounds portray new technologies and product innovations. I listened to influential speakers, observed interesting exhibits, and took part in a few fun, hands-on projects.

Having never attended a showcase or a conference such as this before, this experience was new and transformative. Additionally, I had never been to San Francisco before, and I found getting to know a new city and its culture to be eye-opening. Overall, this trip fed my creativity, expanded my perspective, and built up my confidence as an engineer and maker. Through learning about people’s passions and projects it inspired me to pursue my passions in life. Attending the Maker Faire opened my eyes to new ideas, new problems to solve, and new people to learn from. It furthered my path towards becoming a better mechanical engineer and a well-rounded individual.

Listening to Grant Imahara speak, simply being surrounded by so many passionate people at the fair, and taking time to tour areas in San Francisco all contributed to making this a transformative experience. One of the speakers I listened to at the Maker Faire was Grant Imahara. He is an electrical engineer who was on the show MythBusters. His talk kicked off the fair and discussed what being a ‘maker’ meant to him. His words of wisdom really stuck out to me, and they were very valuable to keep in mind as my career as an engineer continues. He stressed the importance of pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, saying that, “each project is an opportunity,” to do so. He also stressed that “failure is part of the process” and that you must not get frustrated but use it as a learning experience to get to where you want. I think these are important lessons for all engineers, because everyone will fail, multiple times, and one must learn how to deal with it effectively.

In addition to the speakers at the Faire contributing to my transformative experience, the people displaying their work and products were just as influential. The Maker Faire is known as the ‘greatest show and tell on earth’; learning about people’s projects and seeing the pride in their work was inspiring. I learned about projects ranging from the R2D2 Builders club, to the Nautilus ocean explorer team, to a personal 3D printer connected to your smart phone. Whether projects were simply for fun or were advertised to consumers, I found it exciting to be surrounded by people who share my goals to use their skills to create products which make a difference.

Lastly, being able to spend time in San Francisco was exciting. I have family in the city who could show me around and tell me what they enjoyed about living there. I found it to be a vibrate place which fostered growth and diversity. On my last day, I went over the Golden Gate Bridge to visit the Redwood National Park. Being able to see that natural wonder was a once in a lifetime opportunity which I am truly grateful for.

To me, change is what the Maker Faire represents and celebrates from year to year. Changes in technology, ways of life, and daily experiences that passionate individuals want to share with others. I want to contribute to the ever-changing world throughout my career as a mechanical engineer. No matter how small, I hope to make an influential change in people’s lives. Attending the Maker Faire helped further my skills to achieve this goal, allowing me to grow professionally, intellectually, and individually. Over the course of the fair, I expanded my knowledge of many fields, and I can now apply that knowledge to my own projects and organizations I am involved in. The change I experienced over the course of this project plays a significant role in building the foundation I have started through my education, allowing me to reach my goal to be an effective mechanical engineer.

Impression, STEP project.

The purpose of my project was to embark on an artistic journey; to follow in the footsteps of the great French impressionist artists. I have always had a special fascination with impressionist art, the expressive brushwork and joyful scenes cause impressionist works to be uncontestably considered some of the most aesthetically beautiful artwork. I had studied French Impressionism in the spring and learned all about the art and techniques of artists like Monet, Renoir, Pissarro, Cezanne, and many more. As someone who loves to paint and is very passionate about art, I used this opportunity to conduct an art project in the typical fashion of impressionist artists, painting en plein air, or painting life outdoors.  To do so, I used my STEP funds to buy camping and art supplies. I then spent a long weekend in the woods painting and drawing the nature just as artists such as Monet or Bazille may have spent in the Frontenac Forest.

I have always been very involved in the visual arts, but my course load makes it difficult to pursue personal creative exploration. This project was an especially significant act for me as a STEM major, with only rare occasions in which I may expend any time or effort in building my portfolio. One of my favorite artists is Claude Monet who is widely known for his paintings of water lilies. In Monet’s lifetime, he went through several stages in his work, but the overarching theme to his work and artistic identity was based upon religiously painting outdoors. In his final decades of producing work, Monet stopped including figures and modern references in his paintings, focusing solely on nature. It is speculated he did this due to a conflict within the French government which made his ashamed of his country, and therefore discontinued his nationalistic, figure-ridden paintings of modern Paris. He focused on nature, and came to prioritize the aesthetics of his artwork over the reality of the scene leading him to fantastically colorful works of art. I wanted to follow his traditional painting style in order to understand the world through his eyes, and become more educated in the technical aspects of his style.

Artwork has the ability to transmit emotion, and whenever I look at a piece of art I try to understand the thoughts and emotions the artist is trying to convey. I had previously related to Monet simply through viewing his art, but now I feel a deeper connection to his message as I have experienced firsthand the steps necessary to create his pieces. It was definitely eye opening to understand what Monet put himself through on a daily basis to create his art, and I became inspired and motivated through my deepened understanding of his work. The transformation I experienced by completing this project was a progression to an ideal level of comfort in my artistic self and my relationship with and appreciation of nature.

In all seriousness, painting outdoors is much easier said than done. I found the practice to be difficult as it requires a special balance of mental engagement within an uncomfortable and distracting environment while accounting for all of your belongings. In addition, although I have moderate artistic ability, I found it very difficult to paint from life, maintain loose brushwork, organize my color palette, and successfully organize my composition simultaneously. My paintings did not turn out as well as I would have liked them too, however the struggle was well worth the dissatisfaction for the added practice. I was able to test my abilities as an artist and really push myself technically like I have never been pushed before. This was a great opportunity to build on my skill set and challenge myself. Additionally, I know this practice led to an improvement in my painting skillset. I found that I ultimately enjoy painting outdoors and hope to include aspects of plein air painting in my future artwork.

Camping was the second component of my project which affected me. I used to camp a lot with my family as a kid, and so the practice had sentimental value to me. I had not been in a while, and I have never been camping so rustically or so much in solitude as I did over the course of my project. The campground had no cellular service, no electricity, no running water, and was only accessible by a mile hike. Unplugging myself from society for a few days was incredibly refreshing, and now I know I will be less reliant on my phone or social media. I was reminded of how great it is to be immersed in nature and I discovered that I am remarkably self-sufficient in the woods. It was nice to reflect on the fortunate lifestyle I live.

This project was quite significant and relevant to my life for several reasons. I think it is important for everyone to strengthen their relationship with nature given the current mistreatment of our planet, and unprecedented disbelief and lack of preventative action with respects to global warming. To spend as little as a weekend away in the woods does so much for one to feel closer to the Earth, and more in touch with oneself. At least it did for me, and it was a much needed unplug from my busy life. It is important to me to advance as an artist not only because I love art, but also because of my professional goals. My professional goals are to become a conservation artist with a specialization in paintings. This field requires an expertise in chemistry, art history, and technical art skills for this field. It is imperative to have a base skillset in artistic abilities to be trusted in repairing or conserving old art, especially valuable pieces of history. A project like this may be especially applicable to my future work if I were to conserve a piece of impressionist art as I have much more context for the origins of the artist’s efforts and practice in recreating impressionist brushwork. I am very grateful for the opportunity to have ventured on this artistic endeavor. Many thanks to the STEP programs for providing me with the means for completing this project.