“Got to play with a cool new technology that has you excited” got me thinking.
A while back, @JeffRush and I had an exchange on Twitter. I know that he (and others) have had mental health struggles from time to time. @TracyBoggiano has even recently created and presented on this topic at a recent SQL Saturday; More Common Than You Think: Mental Illness in Tech.
One thing that helps people deal with things and cope is by looking at pictures. Jeff likes dog pictures.
For those of you who don’t know, one of my hobbies is Virtual Reality (VR). I like to build projects using the Unreal Engine from Epic Games (Version 4.24.0 just dropped today, YAY!!!). Side note: I help run the Denver/Boulder Unreal Engine Group and the Colorado Virtual and Augmented Reality Group. I also have a part-time side-hustle, Zone Of Hope.
So I told him that I would be willing to build him an art gallery for free and populate it with animal pictures if he ever got an Oculus Quest (US$400).
Roll the clock forward several months to 07Dec19.
Jeff put out a poll on Twitter whether he should buy a ‘Quest. I saw that and reminded him my free offer still stands.
A discussion ensued and instead of building something just for him, he suggested why not open it up for the entire #SQLFamily?
SQLPets Was Born
Using the hashtag #SQLPets on Twitter, I’ll be monitoring it closely over the next few weeks. If you want to contribute pictures of baby animals, or pets, etc. here are the steps:
- Announce on #SQLPets on Twitter you want to contribute and then follow me @toddkleinhans so I can follow you back (required for direct messaging (DM)).
- I’ll DM you a link to a Read_Me file. YOU will agree that you have obtained all rights, permissions or these are personal pictures you have taken and want them to be included into the VR project known as SQLPets. At the bottom of the Read_Me will be a link to a Dropbox folder for you and you alone to use. This will do several things: 1) Get permissions up front 2) Keep both you and me out of trouble 3) Avoid me having to scrape pictures from a hashtag. The image quality is generally poor when re-sized. Think a human-sized poster version of your pictures is what you will see in the final product. So getting a high-resolution version from you will ensure the highest quality version I can use.
- For now I want to limit the number of pictures submitted by each person to 10. The current static mesh I’ll be using supports up to ~350 pictures and in order to keep the overall VR file size down, I think this will be reasonable. If we don’t reach around that number, then Jeff can add whatever he wants.
My Gift to Jeff and Others
On or around Christmas, I’ll package up what I have and build a .apk file to be installed on your Oculus Mobile (Go or Quest). Either I’ll use another Dropbox folder to distribute it or might try SideQuest. Here is an example video; still lots of steps to side-load but it does work.
Like other art galleries that I have built, it will work okay on the Oculus Go (US$200), but it will run much better on the Oculus Quest. There are also several steps to go through in order to successfully activate developer mode for Go and Quest. SQLPets will be what is called a side-loaded application. That means it was not distributed through the Oculus Store and is the only way to install this on your device for now.
You will also need a cable to physically connect your device to your computer. For Quest, it must be a USB to USB-C. One cannot use the cable that charges the Quest either, so this is the one thing you will have to buy if you don’t have it in order to put SQLPets on your Quest. For Go, it must be a USB to Micro USB; in this case you can use the charging cable that comes with it.
I only have a Windows desktop set-up at home and I don’t have an easy way to test deploying from a Linux or Mac set-up but I’m willing to work with people to get it working from those too. Using SideQuest could streamline this issue.
I’ll update this blog post with specific steps on deployment. Manually, once everything is set-up, you will run a command prompt using Run As Administrator and path out to where the install (for Windows, this will be a .bat file) lives and then run: Install_SQLPets-armv7-es2.bat and if everything goes well, it will now be installed.
To access it, from the Oculus Home in your Oculus Mobile, in the Library you will now see Unknown Sources. Click that and you should see SQLPets listed. Click that and in a few seconds SQLPets will launch. You will use a teleport mechanic to navigate around. Turn your head where you want to go and on the Quest you will press and hold the A button down on the controller (either hand will work), lift your arm/wrist to control teleport distance and when you let go of the button it will take you there. On Go, you would use the Touchpad on the controller to activate the teleport mechanic.
Being immersed in a VR world and looking at cute animal pictures can give one a sense of hope, positive feelings, and a brief escape to someplace else. This is an art gallery, not a medical treatment plan. If you are in a mental health crisis, get professional help- please.
I wanted to thank Jeff for nudging me to build something for the community and not just for him. And I also wanted to thank Mal again for hosting.
Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and I hope people like and enjoy SQLPets when it comes out.