US Wisconsin Virtual Simulation
Located in Norfolk, Virginia, the museum Nauticus plays host to the US Wisconsin. The battleship was decommissioned on September 30, 1991. The battleship now acts as a museum on the water where patrons can walk through segments of the battleship and take a guided tour. Due to the nature of the battleship, not all patrons were able to maneuver the bowels the ship. Patrons with disabilities were especially at a loss because it is virtually impossible to get a wheelchair inside the ship. To accommodate the disabled, my team was tasked with the created of a virtual simulation of the inside of the US Wisconsin. This simulation would be pseudo-realistic and enable the disabled to experience the tour route virtually. The client wanted the simulation to be hosted in a kiosk fashion where the user would interact with a touchscreen monitor. First, we acquired schematics of the battleship and familiarized ourselves with the layout. We took pictures and videos and organized them by key rooms they were located. Afterwards, we cross-referenced the objects and eliminated any overlap. For example, there are many chairs and beds that look exactly the same, so we only need to create one 3D model to represent it. I was the only programmer on this project and was assisted by three others who mainly dealt with 3D modeling and project management. I started out the project by prototyping a way point navigation system. The client did not want the user to have total control over where they were going because many of the users may not have experience in a game-like environment. Restricting the movement to being automated while allowing the user to still select a destination ensured that the user would never end up "lost", facing an empty ceiling, or stuck. The navigation system would act similar to a router. Whenever a destination was selected, the end goal was carried almost like a header on a packet. When the user would reach a new way point, the system would check its end goal destination against the current way point's routes. The system would then direct the player to move automatically to the next correct way point. This process would repeat until the way point the user was currently matched the end goal destination that the user had selected, in which case the navigational HUD (Heads Up Display) would be re-enabled for the user to either look around or make a new selection. I also developed a point of interest component where if the user were to click on a tagged object, an informational menu would pop up explaining the use and history of the object in question. During the project, there were several lapses of time where the programming was ahead of the modeling process. I used the online tutorial resource, <a title="lynda" href="http://www.lynda.com" target="_blank">www.lynda.com</a>, to familiarize myself with 3D modeling so that I would be able to assist my team. There was around 300 models that needed to be sculpted and textured, so any assistance that I could provide would help ensure that we met deadline. The team and I worked many late nights, but managed to create a product that was above expectations. Two of my team member were particularly partial to this project because they were former Navy. They wanted to make sure we did this project justice even if it meant a few sleepless nights. The kiosk was a success to the patrons and for first time, the disabled were able to experience the US Wisconsin instead of just waiting for their family members to finish having all the fun. This project was really intense, but I really enjoyed how we used the Unity3D game engine to bring a historic piece to life virtually. The virtual tour is available for viewing at the Nauticus Museum in Norfolk, Virginia.