Since the January 2017, I’ve been dedicated exclusive to studying and developing virtual reality projects. I don’t only work with virtual reality, as I also work on educational game projects projects from time to time and with augmented reality as well. I was first exposed to VR in 2000 as part of my game design education at Full Sail University, but it wasn’t until consumer VR hardware became accessible that I had an opportunity to work with the medium.
I founded my own company, Raptor Dance Studios, a couple years ago to help making working on these and other projects in Turkey possible.
Below are examples of projects that I am working on or have worked on either through Raptor Dance Studios as through the KARMA Lab.
Fathom is a project funded by an academic research grant to produce a user-friendly tool for non-technical persons to create AR applications. Specifically, it is to be a plugin for Unity that simplifies the process by which ministry officials responsible for controlling access to 3D depictions of a nation’s underwater cultural heritage can create educational AR apps for the public. Field testing for the AR portion of the app will take place in late Summer 2020, while UI design and testing of the Unity editor overlay will take place through the summer and early Fall.
Social Defeat Simulation
This project is a partnership between KARMA Lab and KUTTAM, a medical research center located in the Koç University Hospital. This is the first virtual human project undertaking by these stakeholders for the purpose of virtualizing an established psychiatric experiment. In it, human subjects will interact with virtual agents in a VR experience with the purpose of generating a social effect within them.
This project originally started as a photogrammetry exercise and later an AR test case to verify whether it was possible to load heavy models on mobile devices. I was able to confirm that a 600k model of this archaeological site, located in the Urfa province of Turkey, could indeed run on a modest mobile phone. However, in trying to optimize the model, I forgot to ever test it at higher detail settings and simply thought my photogrammetry results were insufficient for VR, which requires truer-to-life levels of detail to work effectively. After several months, a request came for me to produce a VR version of my AR test, and I realized that I had never generated a high qualify model from my photo set. So over two days, I ran my photoset again through Meshroom 2019 and generated far better results. I created a simple VR exploration tool with these models that allows a user to explore the site in a way that is not permitted today.
I’d like to make this freely available to the public on Steam. But at the moment, this project is on hold until I have enough time to design the educational component of the experience or find a partner with such expertise.
VR Museum of Foreign Art of Istanbul
This is a currently on-hold passion project to create the first (to-my-knowledge) museum dedicated to depictions of Istanbul over the centuries by foreign artists. The collection currently features over 300 scanned paintings and prints over a period of three hundreds years. As each the artists have been deceased, the working assumption has been that faithful scans of their work lies in the public domain. The project also features many pieces of my own photogrammetry modeling of culturally interesting sites in Istanbul and other parts of Turkey.
Then end goal is to release this project for free on Steam, as we can never have enough free virtual museums. This particular collection draws art from all over the world, and is particularly interesting to me as a long-term resident of Istanbul.
Reliefs of Sebasteion
This project was another project bringing together VR and photogrammetry for archaeology. The Sebasteion is a structure still standing in the remains of the Roman-era city of Aphrodisias. As a KARMA Lab student project led by Çağlayan Çavuşoglu, I mentored the team through its ideation and ultimately its user experience design phases. The final design saw users introduced to the historical context of the site and then significance of the building, with its many reliefs depicting mythological stories. Users would play a short gaming matching cryptical descriptions to a set of a smaller photogrammetrically captured reliefs (provided by Moutaman Sabbagh from a photo set provided by Deniz Kocabağlı)
My contributions to this project ultimately included working with and cleaning the model of the main structure (provided by a 3rd party firm) and the technical development of the project in Unity.
Post-cube VR Gallery
One of KARMA Lab’s more interesting student projects came from a team of artists. The Post-cube VR Gallery toyed with the concept of a virtual art gallery by making each exhibit itself completely distnct experientially, unlike traditional VR art gallery concepts such as the Museum of Other Realities. As the artists were not technically trained and focused instead on their visual and interactive design objectives, I was responsible for developing the different systems that make their experiences possible, from flapping wings in a Dali-esque desertscape to shrinking into a woman’s vagina (represented by an empty whole filling with broken ceramic dolls). Above is a video recording of an early-stage version prior to be exhibited at VR Days Europe 2019.
This KARMA Lab project featured a collection of 360 videos made amongst the Afghan refugee community of eastern Turkey set inside a navigable 3D virtual environment. Bahar Aykaç led her student team through video shoots and ethnographic studies before ultimately relying on me to implement their immersive experience design in Unity. The result was not a 360 documentary about a marginalized community, but an individual experience exploring their world. Users visited 360 videos according to their own navigation of a spatial video selection interface.
Rainbow Bridge was the very personal project led by Seher Kis as part of the KARMA Lab’s first year of student projects. Mourning the loss of her belowed cat, Luna, and inspired by a poem by the same name, Seher pitched a VR realized of an afterlife for pets. The project has been presented at several conferences and universities in Europe, most notably VR Days Europe in 2019. I was mentor of this project, particularly with regard to technical design and implementation. I also support with coding help and Unity optimizations, though I did not serve as lead programmer on this project.
Conceived as a therapeutic tool for clinicians working with autistic children, VRythm is a rhythm game in which players must mimic the drum playing of another player or virtual agent. This was another student project during the KARMA Lab’s first year. Do to project management issues with the team, I ultimately did almost all of the coding to help the project reach a functional and presentable state. The art design and swamp context were particularly effective and received strong feedback from reviewers.
Another student project from the KARMA Lab, in’in was the product of a team lead by Rabia Uçay. The experience presented the user in a hustling, bustling urban jungle before leading them to leave it behind and travel across a long see to a tranquil cave for meditation. Most of the development work was performed by my KARMA colleague Sinem Şemsioğlu, but toward the end I joined the project to optimize its performance, improved several visual elements, and improve the user experience based on feedback from conference trials.
Virginia Woolfe story
This project was a 360 video projects that featured an uncommon physical interaction in the form of a mixed reality page turning interface. As the player turns a physical, rotating board (which is virtually represented as a book), the application swide swipes between 360 videos.
I mentored on some of the filming aspects, mostly with regard to how rendered 3D objects would appears once super-imposed in the video. However, I supported mostly on the technical implementation of the page turning board, which was originally intended to work with a wired arduino sensor, and the shader employed for the video transitions. Unfortunately as predicted, the wired arduino proved unstable do to the wire wrapping around the board’s turning axel, and the final version saw an Oculus Rift controller mounted onto the physical turning board.
I did the programming of both the video management, shader control, and arduino/controller integration.
Vakıf Katılım Branded Experience
This 2018 project grew out of the presentation of my earlier Ottoman Archery Training prototype to Istanbul’s Archery Foundation. An Islamic Finance institution in Turkey asked for a branded experience that brought together 13th century Anatolian history, archery, and contemporary Islamic finance principles. The result was a VR experience that was fun for the whole family. It was featured at the 2018 Ethnic Sports Festival and saw the son of the Turkish president (the country’s most famous archery enthusiast) come down specifically to try my game. It is still being used by the bank today to bring attention to their booths. I did all the design and development of this project, and worked with artists Safa Iseri and İsmail Çendik for period-specific props.
This was my first exposure to a collaborative VR platform design. The project was a partnership with Dila Altay, at that time a senior design student at Özyeğin University. The result was a simple collaborative space in which users could share and exchange immersive content for the purpose of idea generation. The project output was her successful graduation project, but it is more interested in hindsight as it mirrors many elements on emerging collaborative design platforms emerging in the VR sector today.
Who is the Spyzard?
This was a 36 hour hackathon project for the Babylon Jam in 2018, sponsored by the Goethe Institute. The purpose of the jam was to explore VR language learning applications. I worked as designer on this project on a team with Egemen Ertuğrul as developer and İsmail Çendik as 3D artist. Our project sought to leverage an adventure game experience to contextual language learning, particularly vocabulary building and applied problem solving. We came in 3rd place out of more than 20 projects and were awarded an HTC Vive for our efforts.
Ottoman Archery Training
This started out as a fun and easy VR project using SteamVR’s available archery tools. I ultimately found I preferred to modify and re-write sections of the code and arrow behaviors to better match the environment I was building. I wish I had been able to work with a historian to do more to build out the educational content of this project. We showed it to the leadership of Istanbul’s historic Archery Foundation (itself founded in the 15th century) who loved it and requested it for their upcoming youth festivals.
VR Tulip Festival
This was my first real passion project, as I love the incredible expensive Tulip Festivals that used to be held annually in Istanbul (at enormous expense). As the festival only lasts a few weeks, I sought to virtualize this experience for permanent exhibition and to allow users to dynamically modify and create their own versions of designs with tulips. Ultimately, I ran of time and energy to finish this project. In the end, the functionality was there, but not the landscape design. This project made me appreciate how important it is to design from the user’s perspective, which in this case is from within VR.
One day I’d like to revisit it with a 3D artist to help really bring dozens of tulip varieties to live.
My very first VR project featured the folk legend of Hezarfen, a contempotary of Leonardo da Vinci who supposedly flew across the Golden Horn with constructed wings. This project originally grew out of a failed hackathon project undertaken by master’s students of Bahçeşehir University. Somehow, I got roped in to doing all the work, and it ended up being their successful term project (to my annoyance).