Glenn's (virtual) reality.

Both at work, and at home, I do a bit of virtual-realty work. Nothing fancy!

Do I have a headset? No! I don't buy into the conflation of headsets with VR. Despite what companies-who-want-to-sell-you-a-headset would like you to believe, you don't need one to do VR. Having said that, a headset certainly has the potential* to make VR better. But anytime someone trys to tell you if you aren't using a headset it isn't really VR, just ask to see their BCI port, since it obviously isn't real VR if you aren't jacking-in via a direct Brain-Computer-Interface! VR isn't defined by your interface hardware!

I say Potental, because my (admittedly somewhat limited) experience with headsets so far are that they are largely consumer-junk, essentially rich-kids' toys, basically breifly-amusing landfill-fodder. They have shown limited use beyond very-very-carefully designed and curated 'experiences'. My attempts to use them in more general-purpose, creator-focused, virtual environments has so far failed to impress me at all! The 3D-effect is, at best, cute ... for a little while. Then you want to do something other than stagger about crudely poking at things and you realise that a screen, keyboard and mouse (or trackball in my case) are an order of magnitude better for getting actual stuff done! The technology has the potential to one day possibly be worth the effort, but right now, even free is too high of a price for the effort one has to put into getting any real value out of them.


Software:

I primarily use the following software: All is open-soucce and multi-platform.

Linux: I use GNU/Linux at home. Is it great? Not really! Is it better than the pay-for alternatives? Significantly! The OS-Kernel is solid enough, but the userspace is, frankly, a bit of a mess! But still better than the (arguably) prettier but (deliberately) less functonal commercial alternatives! I presently use the Debian flavour, which is a bit bare-bones, just the way I like it! Linux Mint is probably a better choice for people newer to Linux.

Overte: a general-purpose VR platform that is open-source (permissive licence) and multi-platform. You can just run the client to interact with other people's worlds, using a headset or a flat screen. No crypto or NFT junk ripping you off with expensive artificial-scarcity - you can have as many VR-worlds (of up to 16km3 each) as you want to supply your own server-capacity for, using any cloud-provider for bigger, always-available worlds, or even running a smaller world from your home laptop/desktop computer for free (the limit will more likely be your home network bandwidth than your computer).

Blender: a very featureful 2D/3D modeling animation package. I use about 1/8th of its capabilities, mostly static modeling for insertion into my Overte worlds (and for 3D print, but that is another story!). It is a bit daunting in its complexity, but there are extensive (and usually good!) tutorials all over the place for beginners (do the donut!).

GIMP: an open-source image-editing staple which I mostly use for generating my image-based textures.


Hardware:

Current Client: I presently run on a 12yo PC with a Core i7 CPU, 8GiB DDR3 RAM and a Radeon 270X graphics card. This is actually plenty for a modern GNU/Linux system, which runs a lot leaner than either major commercial OS, despite having noticably more useful features built-in! It is about time for an upgrade, but this PC is actually working fine for the sorts of low-detail worlds I presently like to work with. The GPU is a good bit newer than the rest of the box, at around 5yo, but the other older components are surprisingly capable. My experience is that VR is not particularly CPU/RAM constrained, but a better GPU would definitely be an improvement here.

Current Server: The same 12yo model and spec as my client (I pulled them together out of the eWaste bin), but with its origional, much older, GPU card. The VR server doesn't use any GPU capabilities itself however, and I don't even have this box connected to a screen as I remote-connect into it from my client machine to manage it.

Next Client: I am actually considering upgrading to some sort of mini-ITX board with a soldered-on AMD 6800HX chip. Yes, I said upgrade: even this recently-released low-end integrated chip is benchmarking in at around 9x (!) my current CPU+RAM and 2.5x my current GPU! And gently sips power compared to my present noisy-space-heater rig. I could always add in a discrete GPU later if I needed the extra grunt, but being (within reason) a bit constrained in that regard is something I actually like, as it forces me to be careful about texture-size and triangle-count in my 3D models. I am just waiting for someone to actually release my desired board (these sort of mini-boards usually lag the use of the same chips in Laptops by about six months).

Next Server: I am looking into using a small power-sipping SBC (Single-Board-Computer) if I can obtain a suitable one and get a code re-compile working on it. A Raspberry Pi 4 actually has the same per-core performance as the above 12yo intel chip in my present server, for far less power usage. The Core i7 has 8 (virtual) cores to the Pi4's 4 cores and the Pi4 has some less-than-ideal I/O performance for this kind of usage (not a criticism - this isn't the usage they were intended for). There are alternate SBC options available which have their own pros and cons vs the Pi4 device (generally stronger I/O, but weaker CPU cores), and nothing beats the support of the Raspberry Pi organisation and the Pi community. For a resource-light world limited to only half-a-dozen simultaneous visitors, a Pi4 or equvalent is plenty of processing power for the server-side. In the unlikely event I ever wanted to host a world that can cater to hundreds of simultaneous visitors (yes, Overte can handle that), I would saturate my home broadband long before I ran out of processing power, so I would have to switch to cloud-based hosting for that anyway.

While one of the most CPU-powerful ARM SBCs on the market, the Pi devices have very weak GPU capabilities, and as such don't realy have powerful enough graphics to serve as a VR client/viewer, unfortunately. I also have my eye on a RISC-V SBC announced-but-not-yet-avaiable to see what its GPU is like - in Linux-support, as well as capability - when (if) it is finally available.

Headset: When I eventually get one, I am presently looking at the HTC Vive pro 2 device, though I am also open to other options. I am very unlikely to ever get anything by Meta as I probably can't get the needed Meta account to use one (my online presence is a bit too-well shielded from routine commercial identity-tracking, and if you don't show up on their advertising servers you are, by default, a non-person, and I am not really interested in sending them my photo-ID just to prove I exist enough to buy/use their products!)

Body Rig: This is the kind of thing I am likely to design and build myself. Not any time soon, though, lets get the other stuff all purchased and working first!


The Endless Desert

This is a relatively simple virtual world that presently serves as my personal virtual space, primarily for testing ideas and self-training. It is resource-light and I normally restrict it to under 6 simultaneous visitors (plus a reserved slot for myself) as it is running off my old-junk-box server on my home internet connection. Expect instability and frequent breakage!

Please note that the below images are not representative of Overte's visual capabilities. Due to self-imposed resource constraints, as well as a personal aesthetic preference, my worlds tend to be very blocky, use very low-resolution textures, and not a lot of visual effects. Overte can do a lot more!

Server instability warning sign (in-world)

It is a nice big open space with low polygon count. Overte gives you up to around 16km3 of usable volume in a world. You can go far beyond this, but the foibles of floating-point maths start to intefere with graphics beyond the 8km-from-origin range. My ground mesh actually extends out to around 24km, but everything beyond 8km out is not intended to be visited, just low-poly mesh to be viewed from afar.

Endless Desert entry pad

At the origin point is a structure of stone plinths around a platform, some of which contain iconified buttons which provide short-cut teleports to some of the places-of-interest out in the Endless Desert.

The Boulder Field

You can walk out to these places, if you know were they are, but if you click their teleport button at the central pad, you will be teleported strait there. This is one of the places-of-interest, The Boulder Field!

Return-home buttons.

There are stylised buttons to teleport back to the central teleport pad in most locations you can teleport to (the few that lack them instead have teleports to other places that do have them). If you get really lost, you can also just manually teleport back to coordinates (0,0,0) or (0,2,0) if you don't want to arrive half-burried in the ground!

There is a half-boulder balanced on one of the boulders. If you get up on top, it should (assuming my dodgy scripting hasn't broken) wobble about if you jump up and down on it.

Obligatory shopping trolley

A remote location isn't complete without an abandoned shopping trolley! It is out there somewhere. I closed my eyes and random-walked about for 5 minutes before dropping it, then teleported home, so even I don't know exactly where it is!

Other locations present (or partially present)

Crashed spaceship, containing cargo crates that will eventually dispense some of my 3D assets used in the world, for visitors to keep and use in their own worlds (I am quite big on developing my own assets, rather than using others' IP, though my own skils in this area are a bit basic, so my aesthetic follows that).

A half-burried spaceship wreck. At the blown airlock of the burried spaceship wreck. Crates in the crashed-ship cargo bay.

Nutter's Knoll, a mesa of no current use other than vertically balancing the canyon in my 3D terrain model! (Presently there is a random building on it, but this is eventually going to be moved underground, into the side of the below canyon, once I am done testing the model in this more convenient location.)

At the blown airlock of a burried spaceship wreck.

The Crack, a canyon with a small lake and a palm tree at the bottom of it. Eventually to become a small oasis in the desert, with a bunch of caves - some natural, some constructed - in the sides.

Palm tree on edge of lake.

The Underground, since I can go 8km down (and up) too, I am eventually going to add in some sort of vast network of catacombs and abandoned caves/tunnels below the surface. Probably done in stacked-together 1km blocks, possibly a different theme for each (natural caverns, ancient temple, abandoned technological structure, etc.).

Screenshot from the 1956 film 'Forbiden Planet'

Think the Krell-facility (AKA: The Great Machine) shown above, featured in the 1956 SciFi film Forbidden Planet (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) as a vast underground mechanised space, a cubic volume 32km to a side, full of immense power and constantly switching circuits... and the doom of the mysterious Krell species who built it! (Genre-defining movie, in its day, though a bit more 'slow-and-thinky' than a modern sci-fi movie audience might enjoy!)

Note, my intention is not to model this specific IP - this is just for a general idea of one of the kinds of vast underground structures I am hoping to create under my desert. See also The City from the manga comic BLAME!