Tag Archives: Blender

Learning about UV texturing

To continue making progress with this wheelchair accessibility sim, it’s time for me to start learning about UV texturing in Unreal Engine 4. Up to now, I’ve just been working with flat color materials (to simplify the process of figuring out issues like weird shadows, and because they work well with VR, etc.) but now I need to start making some signs.

Today I’ve started with an extremely simple sign. Method: In Blender, I added a cube to a basic rectangular bollard and shaped it to fit a common-dimension access notice sign. Then I assigned three materials to the mesh, for the post, sign and sign face. I unwrapped the mesh (Smart UV project, with some island margin) and baked the light map, then exported the light map. I opened the resulting PNG in Photoshop, and copied and transformed the access sign graphic onto the face region of the light map (which turned out to be facing the right way the first time) and saved that image back out as a new PNG. Back to Blender, I selected the sign face material in the Outliner, then opened the texture manager in the Properties window and created a texture with the new PNG, and re-baked the light map. Result:

Ayuma Project 1 work in progress

Ayuma Project 1 work in progress – bollard with wheelchair access sign texture applied

Not bad! Not very efficient though, in terms of work flow or system resources. The texture is large and I’m not using most of it, since in UE4 I’m actually using other flat materials, but it’s a start – the sign shows up and lines up. No doubt it’s a better plan in this case to make separate meshes just for the signs themselves, and then attach them to various post or other meshes.

Ayuma Project 1 work in progress

Ayuma Project 1 work in progress – access sign beside staircase.

One of many, many things I’ve come to know about in working on this project, in reading about signage I learned that New York City is changing to a modified, more kinetic version of the familiar wheelchair symbol – I will certainly be making up signs with this version. You can read more about the icon, and can donate to support their work, at the accessibleicon.org website.

Courtesy accessibleicon.org

Courtesy accessibleicon.org

Ayuma Project: 1 – initial post

UPDATE: first test build now posted!

2015-03-03 12_44_15-If You Love Something, Set It Free - Nightly Yesterday I noticed in my Unreal Engine launch window that I had a credit, and in reading about why, I found out that Unreal Engine is going free because Epic loves it. This is probably a good move to, among other things, get nascent game developers using UE4 instead of relying on other free alternatives like Blender’s game engine. So, now is as good a time as any to post that I am working on a project with Unreal Engine 4, code named Ayuma Project: 1, with VR devices like the Oculus Rift as the major target. I was in on the kickstarter for the first developer’s edition of the Rift. l loved messing around with it, but I was still busy being sciency and also quickly got queasy using it. I saw an interesting future in it, though, and pre-ordered the DK2. Sitting in my swiveling office chair – in the way I envision the Rift will often be used – playing with the Tuscany demo, I arrived at the sense that it did not really feel like walking around. I was sitting, after all, so I thought it felt maybe a very little bit like (temporarily) sitting in a wheelchair. As I have touched on just a bit in this blog so far, I believe video games (or interactive simulations, first person experiences or whatever….despite my affection for etymology, terminology is not my focus here for now) have a great deal more potential to aid in personal development. One aspect of self-development, as I see it, is the cultivation of empathy, and this is is one area where games very often work against. Yet the Rift offers such a tantalizing opportunity to put yourself in another person’s position, to see the world from another point of view, and to come to understand better their challenges and opportunities. And so I came to decide on a wheelchair-use semi-simulator as my first learning project with the development tools. I say semi-simulator because I will work to have things grounded in reality as much as possible, though I do not have the programming skills to develop a fully fleshed-out sim. I do have some experience with Blender from my biology work, making animations from atomic microscopy data, but this did not involve model-making…I imported generated models to Blender and then used its camera-pathing and rendering tools to make 3D movies. I have, over the years, had some occasions to use Autocad, CadKey, Solidworks, and the like, though at novice level, so starting in on modeling has been an adventure. I started with this image of standard measurements:

standard wheelchair dimensions

Wheelchair standard dimensions – taken from an accessibility design article that I have not yet found back.

and, after experimenting to learn how Blender and Unreal units relate with respect to importing, began to build up a very basic wheelchair to the dimensions.

Ayuma Project: 1. Work in progress. Early wheelchair built in Blender.

Ayuma Project: 1. Work in progress. Early wheelchair built in Blender.

I debated making the chair manual, but at least to start with, felt like it would be more natural to go with an electric. But in working on an initial test level, I hit on a simulation focus opportunity – pre- and post-Americans with Disabilities Act public spaces. Since the ADA started coming into effect in the 70’s, I thought to make an electric wheelchair from the 50’s or maybe 60’s.  One of the earliest electric wheelchairs, for which there are some good reference images available online, was the Klein Drive Chair, invented by George Klein.

Klein Drive Chair

Klein Drive Chair (thank you to the National Research Council Canada for making this image set public)

So I imagined, what if someone handed over these pictures to a custom frame-maker and said, “make me a sturdy, purpose-built version of this.” And here is the result thus far, rigged and (mostly) working in UE4:


1950’s-style electric wheelchair work-in-progress, for Ayuma Project: 1, in its current state. Among things yet to be added are the control joystick, drive pulleys, and an occupant.

And a view from inside the Rift!


Ayuma Project: 1, wheelchair simulator, seen in the Oculus Rift.

As outlined, I arrived at this concept for a project from my own experience with the Rift as well as my own hopes for what video games can do. My only encounter with a player-used wheelchair in a game that I remember is with Munch from Munch’s Oddysee, a game I had for the XBox and played through twice, saving all the Fuzzles the second time through. What a great game!  I am happy to learn, though, that I am not the only one to think along these lines. Back in 2013, user “nikkmitchell” was working on an Oculus project then called “Wheels 0.2,” and had a demo working. You can watch some playtests of this game on Youtube, but it appears to no longer be in development, and you can tell from that video, it had something more of a game than sim orientation, though it did have an intro that wanted to help the player project their frame of mind to a wheelchair user’s perspective. And I saw in a post that there was a wheelchair simulator at Gamescon 2014.  I also recently saw the news of the Cerebro Experience, in which you supposedly sit in Professor X’s wheelchair, but I don’t think you move around at all. I’m sure there are others; I will work on differentiating this one further. Thank you for your time, and please stay tuned for future updates!