For the final project in Immersive environments, I decided to continue the virtual reality experience in Japanese Tea Ceremony made in collaboration with Sara Caudill. The goal of the environment is to introduce the user to a cultural tradition as a guest and transition to a participatory role as a performer of the tea ceremony. The user is welcomed in a garden setting and lead to a tea room, where voice narrations guide them through the movements and interactions of the tea ceremony objects.
Sara and I determined a project stemming from both of our background in studying Japanese language and culture. So we decided on the method of Japanese tea ceremony, a cultural experience that would provide both an education and an intimate look into an experience that seemed miles away. We also pursued personas on opposite sides of the spectrum to see if we could address a wide range of needs (the older American who doesn’t travel vs. the younger Japanese native who is in closer proximity and access to the real life experience).
In the first iteration of the project, we accomplished the build of a traditional tea room setting and enabling interaction with the tea ceremony objects. While a lot of progress was made to immerse the user into an experience with cultural significance, many elements were left out due to time constraints and limited knowledge in our goals.
In the next iteration as the final project I wanted to accomplish tasks in the following areas:
-Garden environment to welcome the user to the tea ceremony experience
I created a garden opening scene for the exterior of the tea house using a terrain tools asset package. One of the obstacles that emerged was the bulk of data that couldn’t be sustained on the Oculus Quest, so I made a fairly easy transition to the Rift available in ACCAD.
-Provide an option for the user to enter the narrated “Guide Mode” or “Free Mode”
The goal of creating free mode and guide mode option fell wayside when I started incorporating a limited amount of narrations, which limited the experience of a guided mode, and failed to consider a main menu scene. For now, the experience is at a default free mode.
-Rebuild the sliding doors and create transparency in the paper
The screen door was also a task of creating cubes and setting a shader for transparency.
-Create realistic interior and exterior daylight
-Realistic nature sounds for the garden
-Narrations made by Sara: The introduction into the tea room from the wall scroll + directions for making the tea
I was only able to code Sara’s narration for the scroll after the user enters the tea room. She had two others that provided direction in handling the objects, but much of the time regarding the objects was dedicated to water interact-ability.
-Sounds from the objects when colliding with the table and other objects
Both the bowls on the table have ceramic-to-surface sounds playing when they collide with the table or each other. The water ladle also has a wooden thud with the same conditions.
-Incorporating water and its interact-ability; Being scooped from the kettle into the teacup
Shadrick generously provided the Obi Fluid Renderer package and tutorials for how to emit fluids and I started working on emitting water and powder.
-Matcha powder appearing when it’s scooped and creating tea when combined with the water from the kettle
I realized pretty quickly that the emitters greatly slow down the experience. I decided not to include one for the powder because having more than one emitter conflicted with the overall user experience.
-Transitions between scenes
I initially wanted to animate the door to the tea room open and close behind the user after entry. But I’ve instead added entrance and exit signs to the doors and the scenes transition through the Scene Loader Scripts.
Reflection + Challenges
While there is certainly more immersion and interaction to the experience, there are still many elements left out of the experience, such as the main menu, cues for the narration, the directions for handling the objects, and an appropriate conclusion to the tea experience.
Another longstanding challenge is in maintaining the authenticity of the Japanese tea ceremony. Sara and I are voyeurs to Japanese cultural traditions, so a richer VR experience could be drawn in consultation with a seasoned expert in tea ceremony.
However, in continuation of this project, I would like to address the incomplete portions of the experience and include a multi-sensorial element for the user. This would include the user feeling a light breeze from the garden and incorporating scents of nature and the matcha tea outside of the headset.