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Alice 3 in VR

Page history last edited by Don Slater 4 years, 10 months ago

Alice 3 Worlds in VR

The Alice VR initiative will work through a standalone (compiled) unity player application. This will be used to run the students projects without them having to do anything in Unity itself. Students will continue to author their worlds in the same Alice IDE you are using today with the addition of an export button in the file drop down (this is what we used for the demos we showed at the conferences). They will then launch the player and select load world, browse to their save file, and run.


This same player will work to run Alice worlds in the unity player on desktop without VR. If the player detects VR it will launch there. Our first iteration will support Oculus (Rift and Rift S) desktop VR.

Here is our current release schedule and some more details on the goals:


  • Alice stand alone player: We are excited about the initial launch of just the Unity player because we think some of the performance improvements in rendering will help support some of the larger and more complicated worlds students have been creating. We also think it will make for a better presentation method as it will go full screen without the tool bar and will allow people to play worlds without having to first launch Alice and load from the editor. We should be launching this in October. The more exciting features that we will continue to work on after that include:



    • A process that students can wrap their world individually in the unity player so that they can share and distribute their projects as stand alone applications. This may require that they take our unity project (we will be open sourcing the code), loading up our code in Unity, and make a build with their saved world input in the right location. Release TBD



    • A web hosted player: We have tested a webgl version that seems to indicate that we will be able to create a process where students could host their worlds on a web server and serve their creation through a web browser. To be determined will be if we host the platform and the ability to upload to our servers or if we make the full project with directions on how to host available or both. Release TBD



    • Alice to Unity: To be clear this player makes use of Unity but will not be used like netbeans to allow students to begin work on their projects in Alice and then transfer them into unity and modify them easily in Unity. While we will explore ways that they could potentially tweak the output in Unity this work was not intended for this transition at this time.

      We are working on lessons to help students translate what they have learned in Alice into early Unity projects separate from this initiative.



  • Alice VR integration: : This work extends the unity player to make it work with VR cameras and input devices. We currently have the very basic integration working that translates the camera object to the VR headset. Worlds run in VR will display all of the Alice animation functionality but we have not tied in different input devices yet. We plan to begin this work in earnest once the base unity player described above is completed in October (crossing fingers).

    The tentative schedule for full integration including the ability to author vr inputs through events, interface updates to incorporate VR event language, and the ability to preview active area for VR camera areas is January. After the initial release we will continue to work on supporting further platforms including stand alone vr headsets.



  • VR Beta: We did demo this already at the conferences and do want to get it out as soon as we can with limited functionality because we think it is super cool. We are currently working to clean up the current version that would allow Alice to run all of the base animation functionality in VR (and you can drive user inputs with the keyboard). We will put in a small temporary hack to enable toggling to use a moveable camera with the joystick similar to the future functionality of programming an object move for camera event. 


To use the beta you will need to download a beta version of Alice that will include the export function (it will save out a .a3w file format). You should be able to open existing worlds in this version and then save them out. You will also need to download the beta of the player.


Our initial development has made use of Steam VR so you may need to also install Steam and Steam VR. We just made a push for this version and used it at Oracle Code 4 Kids! in San Francisco this year. We are doing a little more clean up and plan to make this available next week.



  • Alice 3 Bug Fix Updates: We are also working on incorporating a couple bug fixes and new features into our next release. We may put this out before the player release as these items may be helpful for those that would like to have earlier access to them:


    • Print code: We know that this functionality would be useful for student submissions for the Create Task of CS Principles and also for teachers who may want an easier way to quickly scan program code. We have been working to implement this feature in Alice 3 and are cleaning up the output format now.


    • Billboard textures: We have had a bunch of reports on different bugs ranging from crash bugs to texture and scaling issues and we have been working through billboard functionality to clean a these up.


    • Built in joint arrays: For those of you using the railroad pieces, we accidentally introduced a bug on our last release that broke this functionality. This has been fixed.



  • Alice VR and Google Cardboard (and similar devices):We do understand the price challenge of VR. We do hope to port to further platforms including mobile and stand alone VR. We are initially targeting desktop in our timeline because it is the natural first step and for mobile we will need to build out an infrastructure to publish the app including a web platform to support a way for students to upload and access their worlds on the device (it will also require some performance and application size optimizations).


We do hope that classes could get access to devices that have input devices so that their worlds can include programming events and interactivity. We are trying to promote/share available grants to get hardware when we hear of them and please share them (if initially there are ways we can partner to do so we will also let everyone know).


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