Developing a Tennis VR experience for product marketing- Case Study Part 1
This VR experience was used to showcase the clients new products & technologies. They commissioned this project for their annual mega event which played host to large no of visitors from fortune 500 companies in the US. Later on this project was further developed for promotions at sports events.
Develop a VR experience to showcase new technology product for sports industry at the company’s annual conference in the US.
The company wanted their users to experience the working of an under development software technology product for sporting events & facilities with the aid of virtual reality.
VR headset brand HTC VIVE was chosen for this project.
The entire VR experience was divided into three modules. The companies wanted to showcase how their technology would improve their experience with a sports event.
The company decided to use VR as it allowed them to create a mirror of the real offline journey of the sports event in virtual.
Once the user dons the HTC VIVE headgear, she is reliving her life in VR. She interacts with the new features in real time & learns how this new technology will enhance her future interaction with the sporting event.
The user is located in the life size tennis court, where she is about to experience a game play between 2 AI players. In VR the users get an experience similar to a pre-match practice session between 2 players seen in any tennis game.
To begin, the system allows the user to select players she wants to watch, from a list of top ranked players from different nationalities.
Using VIVE controllers she is able to port around the stadium, to 3 different locations within the court. She can watch the game play, seated in the private boxes at the top of the stadium, from the middle stands of the stadium or in the front row closer to the players & the court.
Similarly, the users could order food or book a taxi as they watched the match.
Module 2- Shopping for Sports Gear & Character Customization
In this module a user moves on from watching a game & gets ready to play a game. Obviously I have to buy the attire needed to play a tennis game. Here the user enters a virtual store for branded sports merchandise.
This virtual sports store has 3d models of Rackets, t-shirts, shoes & other accessories. Here she can interact with each of these items & try it on a mannequin.
The experience in this module ends when the user buys the required sports wear & is now ready to play a match in module 3 of the experience.
Module 3- Playing a game against an opponent
This is the final module in this experience. Here the user is the avatar of a player who is ready to play a game against an AI opponent.
Before the game begins, The user can choose the characteristics of their opponent. Here the opponent is modeled on real life player data of the top players in the world. The user will play a game and virtually experience how it feels to play against the abilities of a top ranked player.
In this game, the user plays just like they would on a real tennis court game but with access to real time data & analysis. After each game the user can analyze their game play or compare stats with that of their opponent.
For example the user can see their serve speed, returns percentage, errors, winning shots etc and compare it with the opponent. Using HTC VIVEs tel-portation they can navigate all across the court. They can see the visual trajectory of their serves & position where the ball landed. They also get to see all the game stats on life like a giant screen similar to the one seen on real professional level tennis courts.
Design & Development CHALLENGES
Life Size 3d Tennis stadium
To save time & effort, we bought a high detailed 3d model of a stadium from an online 3d marketplace. Which then was heavily modified to add the tennis court & other features. Additional modeling objects like a jumbo-tron, seating adjustments, giant display screens had to be added later. Lighting, texture baking was another challenge that needed constant adjustment with every change we made in the scene.
One of the biggest challenges was to create more than 80 animations of 3d characters playing tennis shots. It was even more challenging as no one on the team had ever played tennis. Luckily the point person appointed by the clients was an active tennis player, so by watching a lot of tennis games & testing we were able to get the animation to look right.
We worked hard to get the ball physics to behave like it would in a real game. In the end the physics that came closest to real physics became too difficult to play. To save on time for the users of the experience at the conference, the ball physics was gamified so the end user would find it easy to play a game. Later on we used this experience to custom build a ball physics engine in Unity
Most projects don’t need character animators,crowd simulations, real ball physics or require a life size set of a stadium. Each of these features threw up challenges which pushed the team both on time & skills.
This was a large project for us & it was an important product marketing event for the client. A lot of coordination was needed between us & the clients local & US teams as testing took place at both ends. Technical challenges can always be handled, managing people’s expectations is the most crucial aspect of any major project where both the stakes & the pressure is high.
One of the biggest takeaways from this project was that we got the right combination of skills in the team. At every stage of the project, we kept things tight, kept communication channels open & received crucial feedback & inputs from the clients.
This project took center stage at the event & the clients were happy as there were no hiccups & we were happy as we were able to pull off a large project in a short duration of 2 months with a small team.
Coldface Interactive is a boutique XR (Virtual / Augmented Reality / Game / 3D) studio. We have delivered projects for Training, Entertainment, Experiential Marketing, Exhibitions & MVP’s. We also develop custom built apps & tools with business potential. Our first product, “Fur & Hair” tool, for character/creature modellers is selling on the Unity Store .You can read the case study here.
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