- Upgraded to A-Frame 1.1.0
- Upgraded A-Frame Extras. The motion controls are now confidently on the left hand. Before, they were on whichever hand loaded first. My instructions on VR movement had to be vague to account for that! Now left thumbstick is the one for walking. Instructions on the wall updated.
- Switched from aframe-teleport-controls to aframe-blink-controls by Jure Triglav. Now the right stick is used for teleportation, with two added bonuses. One is that pushing forward then swiveling the stick to the side rotates the orientation upon landing. The other bonus is that left and right movements on the stick now rotate the view by 45 degrees. Chair VR is now a whole lot better with this alternate way to turn.
- Room model height was set to 5cm. It is now at baseline with the navmesh for more accurate scaling.
An amazing new addition to the Burial Chamber has appeared on Sketchfab. Location: Paris, France. Welcome to a ‘deadend’ in the famous Catacombs! See bones upon bones stacked in walls as arranged by workers in the 1800s. The side illustrations are also neat. One is another wall of skulls. The other is a cartoon from the time. There is also an easter egg somewhere.
- Using gltfpack to compress models and textures. Burial Chamber except Paris got the full compression and Basis Universal treatment. Everything else just got compressed to keep the smooth textures. Models folder went from 79MB to 57MB. Everything from version to version went from 87 to 70MB, especially impressive with 6MB of new models.
- I had expert help to get compressed models working. But what about the large images, like the maps in the Burial Chamber? While I’m not skilled enough to change how images work, it was within my abilities to turn the images into textured glb files and then compress that with gltfpack. 50% savings!
- Grab Lab table labels are now aligned with table surface and will move up in PC mode too.
- New invisible floor block will keep objects from phasing through the floor.
- Woops, mandrill info in Grab Lab was a copy/paste of the baboons’. Mandrill has its own fascinating information now.
- A female eastern lowland gorilla joins the male and mouse lemur display. The male was the first model I made and the difference is stark. I took the polygons of the female and manually adjusted it to the male’s proportions. Male was also reposed to a slight walk.
- Mouse lemur model got slight polygon cleaning to be up to current standards.
- New Grab Lab skulls: rhesus macaque and squirrel monkey.
- New Grab Lab artifact: Lomekwian hammerstone, one of the oldest known stone tools. I’ve been looking for a Creative Commons model of this for a while! Thanks, University of Central Florida.
- Slight tweak to code involving carrying objects out of Grab Lab.
- Something changed with A-Frame from 0.9x to 1.0.4 where now if I rotate a model, its collision box will now move along with it. This allows me to rotate the credits button behind the Centerpiece and make it just be an orb sticking out of the wall instead of the full i-shape.
- A new burial for the Burial Chamber. Thanks to Global Digital Heritage I can present a burial found in a Spanish castle. Unlike Gabriel Archer, the exact biographical details are sparse but there are a lot of cool features with the grave and the site. They also scanned the castle so that is also in the room as a small model.
- The previously Burial Chamber blank wall now has a map that shows the location of the burial and a changing text box with the name and site.
- Occulsion logic improved. One change is to lighting when entering and exiting the Burial Chamber. This is very subtle now but may be important for future expansions. The other change is to keep grabbed objects visible in VR if the user takes it away from the Grab Lab. It was supposed to do this already but something broke or it never worked in the first place.
- Removed normal maps for burial models and changed shader to be flat (unaffected by light sources). This beat endlessly tweaking the lights to get the desired result per burial.
- Grabbable objects phased through the floor if you dropped them. The navmesh that the user abides by is now also a static object for objects to land on. Also:
- Anti-Drop Protection for grabbable objects. The site will check every few seconds using a tick function if any object has moved below a certain height. If so, it resets the position back to the center of its respective table. If the object has been moved a few meters away, the object is left on the ground since it’d be more convenient to just manually pick it up instead of walking back to the table to get it again.
- Your VR hands are now a blue that is complimentary to interaction orange.
- Proconsul walks on a big branch into the scene! I took the rhesus monkey and conformed it to Proconsul proportions. It was probably a bit easier than making it from scratch. Challenges: the rhesus polygons were rough with some ugly shapes around. They especially held back re-posing since the polygons were connected to each other awkwardly. Improvements: ear and eye details enhanced from the earlier appearance. Proconsul-specific challenges: There are a lot of opinions on how to classify proconsulids, including changing names for fossil specimens up to the genus level. I went with a larger Proconsul, P. nyanzae, and kept the Proconsul name due to my taxonomic lumping tendencies. Another challenge is that Proconsul is kind of plain? It is a notable prehistoric primate so that’s why it’s here. It is always presented walking on four legs on a tree branch because that’s what its traits are adapted for. A later change to the model was to add a little interest by giving the model a slightly twisted mid-step pose. I used other quadrupeds, especially baboons and mandrills for the pose reference.
- The New Guinea human femur dagger I promised a while ago is now in the Grab Lab. It was a quick conversion from the original model using just normal maps. Thanks to Dartmouth College and Morphosource for making it available.
- The Grab Lab tables now have a border of “interaction orange” for UI consistency.
- Jamestown church picture replaced with another that showed the grave site better. The previous picture will be repurposed.
- Re-render of the rooms to include Proconsul shadows. I also learned how to de-noise the baked texture in Blender so the shadows and highlights are a little more crisp with a little pixelation at the edges.
- Woops, the first credits page, the one with my name and stuff, was invisible because the text wrapping was accidentally set to zero. It’s back with new info on the Creative Commons and open source nature of the models and code.
- More tarsier! Poses 2 and 3 show stages of a leap and pose 4 shows the result of a successful pounce. Tarsier 1 also updated with a longer tail.
- A small new wing has opened up in the Scale Model Hall, called the Burial Chamber. Learn about Jamestown and one of its founders, Captain Gabriel Archer. View a life size model of his grave.
- Remodeling the building as a single model in Blender using Archimesh instead of as many separate walls and planes in A-Frame. The benefit should be faster loading paired with more impressive looks since the building is drawn using one instruction (draw call) for the whole thing instead of a separate instruction for each individual wall. Also the Blender model has light fixtures in the ceiling so I can bake the shadows they cast to texture and present them in VR without a performance loss. In fact even with the new room this version has a 1/3rd performance gain.
- Moved scale models around to open up the room. The same space now has a lot more empty areas for future models.
- Rewrote how occluding zones are processed for efficiency.
- Unrelated to the above, I rewrote a new version of the old way of occluding zones. I tried to go extra fancy with complicated zones made in Blender that covered as much ground as possible. Aaand… it doesn’t work. For example, I had a U-shaped zone but being in the empty part in the center between the arms didn’t register as leaving it. Why???? Well it turned out my collisions are based on AABB colliders, you know, Axis-Aligned Bounding Boxes. The complex zones were being treated as rectangles instead of the shapes I gave them. No getting around that but I can work with this limitation now that I know it’s there. I made box zones as before, but rearranged the room so there are more walls blocking lines of sight for better zones. This works!
- It turns out I never fully optimized the centerpiece model so it was being drawn with 9 draw calls. I tweaked the model so now it is drawn with 2 draw calls and the file lost another megabyte.
- Redid Height Chart as a texture to drop draw calls from around 30 to 1. Rearranged heights and added the tall Australopithecus afarensis Chewie.
- Moved text around to look nice.
- The Philippine tarsier has clung to the Scale Model Hall! This is one of my favorite primates and a representative of one of the big primate lineages. The tarsier is modeled in ‘classic pose,’ holding onto a vertical branch, but this view hides some of their amazing traits. More poses to follow.
- Info button model looks more like the letter i. For info.
- Male mandrill skull in the Grab Lab.
- Hippo ivory harpoon model fixed: normal map depths were too shallow.
- Fixed bug introduced in 1.0.4 where stone tools could be picked up with the mouse in web browsers. No… VR only! The reason is that browser grabbing is awkward and I don’t want to push a subpar experience. But:
- Holoprojectors in the Grab Lab. I figure I should help out browser users, who are 99% of my viewership. Clicking an object now shows a rotating scaled up model to really get into their details. VR users can do too that but can still just move an object closer to their face.
- Since photos worked so well in the Scale Model Hall, a photo will appear when most objects are grabbed in the Grab Lab as well. Fossils do not have photos. Still trying to find good ones.
- Little tweaks to text layouts around the place.
- Updated A-Frame to 1.0.4 coincidentally. New features include better looking and smaller hands for VR grabbing.
- Adding more objects to the Grab Lab:
- It’s Christmas in Spring as The Smithsonian Institution has released over 2000 3D models for public use. There’s a lot of primate bones. The following are making their way to the Grab Lab.
- Gorilla skulls, male and female
- Gibbon, female
- New baboon skull, male
- Other sources of models yield:
- Another Egyptian baboon figure
- Clovis point
- I’ve learned much about converting models for VR. I’ve gone back and made the Moundville pot both smaller in file size and better looking.
- To accommodate the models, the Grab Lab space got expanded. Artifacts will be the starter items viewable from the entry point. The rest of the tables will be behind a wall because…
- Oh I made the ceiling blue as a lark but it looks fine so it’s here now.
1.0.3 (2/24/20) – What didn’t get changed
- Megaladapis (koala lemur) has slowly climbed into the room! This extinct lemur was one of many species of enlarged primates found in Madagascar before the island was settled by humans. The model appearance is based on scientific research interpreting traits from skeletal finds. Focus was on the head, feet, and tail. The common name refers to their similar adaptations to the distant marsupial, just larger.
- Custom wall instructions by device: allows for larger text more visible from starting position
- Grab Lab tables also rise for desktop browser
- Redid textures for all scale models. Use of the UVPackmaster2 Blender add-on and a way to make models unlit with node setup (i.e. not affected by room light) improved model appearance and reduced file sizes. The centerpiece went from ~10 to ~4 MB since the new method allowed a smaller texture file to have equal quality as before. The drop in size means that it loads more quickly instead of popping in place long after everything else is there. I passed the file size savings to the rhesus monkey and orangutan, where I bumped up the texture size to reduce jaggies.
- The gorilla is now colored correctly as an eastern lowland gorilla instead of a western lowland gorilla.
- Mouse lemur has a new perch that matches the branches and vines motif of other models.
- Orangutan model got a few new belly polygons to be slightly less boxy.
- Notharctus now has grooming claws on the second toe of each foot.
- Perimeter walls are also now using fake light technology (flat shading) to simulate different levels of shading without needing light calculations.
- Scale Model Hall modern primate info buttons now also put Creative Commons photographs of the species on the wall. A 200k jpeg looks amazing blown up in VR!
- Walking speed is slower on VR to reduce nausea but increased on web browsers for more zip.
- Credits behind centerpiece now act as pages flippable by touching the nearby orb. Font size increased.
- Added howler monkey model to Scale Model Hall.
- Expanded Scale Model Hall space so you can walk around most models.
- Moved gorilla+mouse lemur and rhesus monkey models behind Height Chart.
- Fixed bug where reloading site on smartphones would ballistically launch objects as the tables are raised. The solution was to have the table rise with a slow animation instead of instantaneously jump into place, which you can see if you look to the right from the start.
- Kept working on touchy controls. Limiting GrabStart- and GrabEndButtons in the Super Hands schema the same way I did in 1.0.1 for the objects seems to make all controls require a full press as intended. I don’t know what I just wrote either.
- Removed triggerstart and pistolstart as ways to grab objects, and triggerend and pistolend as ways to release objects. This means that it will take a full button press or grip to activate objects.
- Added instruction on Grab Lab wall to grab with one button at a time.
- Added version number under big name text.
- Public release. Hooray!