Week 1 The Beginning
My first week in Minnesota was a whirlwind of new experiences. I had never been to Minnesota and I was excited for a new adventure. I moved into an apartment in downtown Minneapolis with 3 girls that I knew absolutely nothing about (fortunately I can say that my experiences with Craigslist have been 100% positive). One of them was even nice enough to give me a tour of campus before I was given my official tour that next Monday. As far actual research goes, I began watching tutorials on unreal engine as I began working with the virtual environment that we would eventually use. I also began doing research on projects similar to the one that I plan to complete by the end of the summer.
Week 2 The Blocks
This week everything seems to be falling into place. Everyone who works in my lab went to lunch together on Tuesday which was a big bonding moment for us. I really enjoyed getting to spend social time with them outside of the lab. In the future we are going to try and have group lunches with all of the labs involved with graphics, but this week was just my lab. My project is coming along; however, I have come to a standstill because of an error I am having trouble debugging. Most of my week was spent trying to find out what was wrong with my program, eventually I discovered that a file extension was "blah..blah..blah", anyway, so I'm waiting on a response from a graduate student because he has worked with this issue before. Until then, blocks. My project involves haptic VS visual senses and the objects we are using to test these senses are blocks. My lab partner and I went to the Home Depot on Friday morning and we bought blocks of all sizes, sandpaper, and paint so we spent most of Friday sanding, and painting our blocks. It was a nice break from the computers, but I am eager to get my program up and running.
Week 3 The Wrong Button
Remember how I was talking about the big error I had come across? Well, fear no longer because I was clicking the wrong button to simulate my program. I figured out this problem when a graduate student was trying to help me. He remotely accessed my computer and asked me to show him how the problem happened. Right when I was showing him how I had been attempting to launch the program he responded with: Why are you pressing that button? I was (and still am) very new to this program, but now know how to correctly launch a program. Small Victories. So now that my program is working and the head tracking is calibrated so I am back on track. The current obstacle in my way is the hand tracking. For some unknown reason (hopefully the answer will be in one of the following reports) the tracker is having a hard time associating itself with a virtual object, so this issue now has my full devotion.
Week 4 The Discovery
With the help of a wonderful graduate student, I am well on my way to figuring out how to track hands within my environment. Turns out, my tracking is just fine, but the calibration is off. So next week my focus will be aligning the hands within the environment. I will have to decide whether to manually align the hands after each launch or to initially align them. Both choices have their pros and cons, but I will need to do some more research on the topic.
Week 5 The Next Step
This week I finally figured out how to correctly track hands within my virtual environment. I spent most of the week trying to properly calibrate the hands within the environment, but now I have moved on to the next step. I will be working on the camera hands. My project will have 3 different levels. One where the participants sees nothing, the next where the participants sees avatar hands, and the last where the participant sees their real hands with the help of a camera. This step is trickier than the last because the hands are not technically tracked, rather their image is just captured and displayed in the virtual environment. Besides working on my project, my lab mates and I have gotten to know each other a lot better and we even went out for a Happy Hour this week. I am very fortunate to have such a great group of people to spend my time with everyday inside and outside of the lab.
Week 6 The Magic
Now all 3 levels are completed. The user can go into the environment and either see no hands, avatar hands, or thier own hands. Within each of these environments I will need displace the hands so that when the user moves their hands towards to blocks they can be tricked into thinking that the blocks size is smaller or bigger than it actually is. The difficult thing about this is that the user needs to look like they are touching the block in the virtual environment when they are touching it in reality.
Week 7 The Magic continued
Like I have mentioned before, working with Unreal Engines using blueprints has been a love/hate relationship. Once I understand a concept the coding for that week is simple; however, when I need to learn something new I spend more time searching for example code so I can learn the basics of what my program needs. I am now trying to hard code the sizes of the physical blocks in so that I can get some basic displacement function working before I attempt to add in more complex and random sizes.
Week 8 The Calibration
I have now made an excel spreadsheet that calculates where the hands should be placed depending on the size of the physical and virtual blocks. Now the only issue that I have ahead of me concerning the avatar hands is the tracking of the right hand. This is a puzzling situation because the left hand tracks near perfectly, but the left hand moves about 45 degrees in the wrong direction when being tracked. Because of this I have been recalibrating hands constantly to see if that was a possible issue; however, no positive results have stemmed from those efforts. Hopefully I can figure that out early on next week.
Week 9 The Poster
At the end of the REU program there is a poster session in which every participant will present their summer research. I have been working on mine all week and the final draft is due this Friday. I am super excited to be able to display my research and I want to see what everyone else in my program has been working on as well. After my poster is completed I will be working on compiling my final report and creating tutorials on my research so that whomever picks up my project in the fall will know exactly how it works.
Week 10 The Experience
This program has been one of the greatest things that has ever happened to me. I am beyond privileged to have participated in a program that has introduced me to such wonderful, brilliant people. This week I have spent most of my time creating a write up of everything I have done as well as creating my final report which is below. I am happy that I will be going home soon but I am sad to leave the University of Minnesota.