On a somber note, I present SQLMemorial. For a short overview video, one can view it here. Names of folks are below.
One of our members recently passed away: Tom Roush. While his celebration of life service was going on last Saturday in Seattle, I wasn’t able to attend but I was working on building SQLMemorial back home in Colorado. People handle dealing with grief in different ways. At times for me I build stuff to honor the memory of someone. Tom was a storyteller and virtual reality (VR) is becoming a new and unique storytelling medium. So I dusted off an old idea and jumped into it full force in my spare time after this TSQL Tuesday topic was announced. My last conversation with him was about getting stories out of your head, even and sometimes especially the embarrassing ones. Even if you never publish them, get them documented. For me I will be doing this in the future using my drive time to record audio- a drivecast.
I am into VR and I am fascinated by what it can do to help people in a non-gaming context. Unreal Engine has been my video game engine of choice- currently using version 4.18.3
When I announced on Facebook a while back that I was building a VR experience using pictures to help distract people in pain in a drug-free way, one of the people who expressed interest in it was Tom. The cost of the software, a GearVR headset, bluetooth controller and an unlocked Samsung S6 or higher phone was just too expensive- over $1000. Now with Oculus Go coming out for only $200 and just around the corner, all of my software has an upgrade path. Yay! So I think things are going to pick up on that front in a big way. Sadly, Tom passed before I had a chance to build something just for him.
At the PASS Summit in 2016 I participated in my second Speaker Idol and I showed everyone a small glimmer of a VR walk-through. Hard to do in five minutes BTW. Part of it was a type of Hall of Heroes, a short roll-call of those SQL Family members who have died. I have tried to keep track by using the twitter hashtag #SQLMemorial
So on my own as a one-person slightly dangerous VR game developer, I attacked this TSQL Tuesday topic as a game jam. Scale back the scope, scale back the scope again, and focus on the most important thing in both video game and software- SHIP! The goal for me was to build and deliver something that works. I got permission from a variety of folks to use their pictures. Special thanks go out to: Argenis Fernandez, Jimmy May, Andy Leonard, Grant Fritchey, Mickey Stuewe, Julie Koesmarno and Tom’s daughter Alyssa, and Hawaii News Now for use of their pictures. Jim Gray’s attribution.
Please note this DOES work even if you do not have a VR headset to use with it.
PC gamers you can skip this, except the next paragraph. Keyboard keys: WASD (W and S are forward and back. S and D are walk like a crab left and walk like a crab right). Arrow keys (up and down are like W and S, left pivots you in place as does right arrow). Mouse moves your head to look up and down.
To end the experience, type the ~ (tilde key) just under the Esc key. Esc does NOT work. You will see a small console line open up at the bottom. Type the word exit then hit return. If that opens under the taskbar or something and you can’t see it, then you’ll need to open Task Manager and kill the process. Extreme yes but user menus is on my list of things left to do.
Immersive VR Use
On my Oculus Rift I use the Windows Xbox controller and it works fine. On GearVR I have a bluetooth gamepad controller. If you have a GearVR and want SQLMemorial on it, I will need to compile a version specific to your phone. It will require you to give me your Oculus Signature File. Instructions can be found here. You can contact me via todd dot kleinhans at gmail dot com.
UPDATE (13Feb18) I became aware that the background sound is not playing on the Rift. My first bug to fix! It is odd as I hear sound when I play it using the VR Preview mode from within the game editor using the Rift and it plays fine on the GearVR deployed version. Go figure.
I offer this software AS-IS, no warranties expressed or implied. It is an .exe file so if you are super paranoid then my advice is don’t install it on a machine you can’t risk screwing up. Seriously though, I personally have never had a problem with Unreal Engine running on any of my machines including those I use for SQL presentations.
It has been tested on a five year old Windows 7 laptop and on a Macbook Pro running VMWare Fusion with a Windows 10 Enterprise (90 day eval) virtual machine. If you are using a virtual machine, be sure in install the VMWare tools as it will update the video driver to enable this to work. I had to do that on mine.
This is hosted on my OneDrive so it might take a while to download (5min for me) at 275Mb.
Click Download. Unzip the SQLMemorial file. Open that folder and unzip the WindowsNoEditor.zip file. Open the WindowsNoEditor folder. Open the other WindowsNoEditor folder. Right click to launch as administrator on the SQLMemorial.exe to start the experience. It will take a few seconds to open. Once it does and on the first time, it will attempt to install the .NET framework it needs if it is missing in addition to Visual Studio C++ runtime. You have to agree to the Unreal Engine software terms. I’ve tried to keep the ambient sound to a background level without being too distracting so might need to turn your volume up or put on headphones. Best experienced w/o too much light in the room.
I still have a list of enhancements for the next iteration. For example, I have tested adding audio clips of short messages in .WAV files and it works fine. Navigation beyond game pad controllers. VR style navigation locomotion. Media playback control. User menus. And then setting up a dropbox to collect more content from people who would like to add more pictures and sound. Maybe video links too as embedding video files bloats the size. Cloud based hosting like Sumerian
I’ll be updating this post so don’t freak out if you re-read this and see different things. I also want to do another blog post on the technical aspects of what it took to create SQLMemorial.
Looking at all of the pictures and reading some of the stories and building this with misty eyes was hard. The fallen will be missed but not forgotten.
I really want your feedback on this project so feel free to hit me up on twitter: @toddkleinhans