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VRTK – Virtual Reality Tool Kit

by DigitalDoyle

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When I first got into virtual reality development I was looking for locomotion solutions; that is, ways to get around inside the virtual worlds I’m creating. Tried several different approaches, but wasn’t really happy with any of them.

Locomotion is tricky in VR. If you manually move the player in the virtual world, the physical body doesn’t feel the natural acceleration and deceleration or gravity and the result can make your user very queasy very quickly. Only a few people are able to endure such experiences without discomfort.

The best method of locomotion in VR that I’ve found is what’s called teleporting. This is where the user uses their controllers to point to a position away from them and when they release the button or trigger or whatever, the display very quickly fades to black and then back up and the player finds themselves immediately in the new position. This works really well and causes no discomfort at all.

I was trying to implement teleportation in my apps, but wasn’t happy with the way things were working. I went to a monthly meetup of A Bunch of Short Guys, (ABOSG is a group that promotes, educates, and supports people interested in all things 2D, 3D, animation, VR, AR, and video production. The ‘Short’ refers to video short productions.), and was talking to the one of the founders, Marshall Pittman, and he suggested I seek out something called VRTK, the virtual reality tool kit. He said that not only would it help with locomotion, but that it also had a bunch of stuff that made possible the grabbing of and interaction with virtual objects. Oh, and it’s also open source and well-supported. Definitely had my interest.

As soon as I got back to my studio, I checked it out and it was everything he said. In addition to the excellent tool kit, the support is amazing. The developers are directly accessible via the VRTK slack channel, which is very much like the irc chat channels of long ago where I learned 3D and programming. They also have an excellent YouTube channel with very detailed info and instruction for using VRTK. Great bunch of people all over the world willing to answer questions and help get over obstacles.

So if you’re into virtual reality development and using the Unity engine and either Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, I highly recommend downloading and checking out VRTK. You’ll be glad you did!


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