Design Engineering
Showcase

TG0

Student
Harvey Upton
Team
etee VR Technology
Supervisor
Dr Connor Myant
Role
VR Technology Developer
Sector
Technology, Media and Telecommunications

TG0 is a technology startup specialising in three-dimensional interactive surface and control solutions. Using custom materials, manufacturing methods and algorithms, TG0 create interface products that people have never seen before.

By joining the company, I aimed to build upon my design engineering skillset through working on application development, applied machine learning and VR interaction design. During my placement, I created a functionally complete VR tutorial game, a SteamVR sensor designer tool, a SteamVR hardware testing tool in addition to contributing to the design and optimisation of a positional tracker for TG0’s new VR controller.

 — TG0

Demonstration of Design Engineering Thinking and Skills

Throughout the placement, I have been working on the etee project which is a new wearable controller that allows users to interact with virtual worlds more naturally. The controller utilises TG0’s proximity pressure sensing technology and materials to allow full finger tracking and recognition of different gestures along with 6 DoF tracking capability to bring your hands fully into the VR world.

 — TG0
etee VR Controllers.

My main project has been working on etee room which is a fun introductory tutorial that users will play when they first receive their etee controllers.

I was responsible for Unity C# development and implemented elements including player movement, VR hands, teleporting, interactable objects, climbing, user interface, force field, instructions and magical gestures.
I collaborated with the hardware and UX team to ensure that the tutorial design was directly informed by the etee controller natural interaction philosophy.

To keep the project on schedule, I helped manage resources and allocate work. This involved creating project documentation/design docs, project collaboration and source control through GitHub, delegation of other TG0 Unity developer tasks and creating clearly defined deliverables for the external graphics consultancy.

 — TG0
etee Room Concept Art.

I also helped develop the SteamVR tracker for the etee controller. This enables VR applications to represent the position of the user’s hands allowing more intuitive and direct interaction with the world.

The SteamVR tracking system works by combining data from photodiode sensors in a known configuration on the tracked object with IMU data to report positions and rotations for the object. The crucial aspect of tracked object design is the sensor configuration which directly impacts the stability and accuracy of the tracking performance.

To solve some of the tracking performance issues we were having I helped devise test procedures, carry them out and teach others how to do them. These test procedures, along with extensive Steam VR research, enabled us to isolate the aspects of the design that needed to be changed to remove the drifting and offset tracking the controller was previously outputting.

To quantify the performance of our trackers I made a test application that can monitor any number of SteamVR devices and lighthouse base stations through a clear UI. In addition
to the standard tracking information, the application can also show both simulated and actual sensor data steamed from the device which is useful for diagnosing tracking issues at specific device orientations.

 — TG0
etee Tracker Prototype Using 20 Sensor Array.

During the tracker design process, I noticed that the existing workflow for creating sensor arrangements was inefficient. There was a long delay time between making a design change and receiving performance feedback.

To speed up development, I created a sensor placement design tool that is used by the hardware team to design optimised sensor arrangements for SteamVR trackers with consideration for hardware ergonomics, sensor occlusion and maximising base station visibility.

Role and Contributions

At TG0 my role was to help the etee VR controller team develop tutorial experiences for users in addition to hardware/software testing and design of the SteamVR 3D tracker. By taking a system view of the etee, as shown here, It can be seen where I contributed within the broader environment of the project from sensor data through to the final user experience.

 — TG0
etee System Diagram.

The etee-room tutorial will ensure that users will have a great initial experience with the etee product and allows TG0 to demonstrate the unique interactions that can be achieved with the hardware. Additionally, etee-room will be used for demonstrating the hardware to potential business partners and shows an example of how TG0 can develop entire experiences from hardware to the final software applications.

This was TG0’s first in house developed game application and will provide a stable platform for the company to build upon with new VR products and interactions in the future. The VR interaction and design knowledge gained, through developing a VR game in-house has and will help inform hardware and design decisions through close collaboration between the different teams.

The tracker test tool was essential in finalising the tracker design. It was used to demonstrate inconsistencies of tracking at certain orientations and positions in the room. This directly informed hardware design decisions as well as being used to tune the firmware parameters on the device.

The tracker test tool continues to be used by various team members daily for calibration, tuning and data collection without which we could not have reliable tracking.

 — TG0
Sensor Tool Design Process

The hardware design team used the new tool to develop and finalise the sensor arrangement for the production of etee tracker. The tool has saved the company time and allowed us to create a well informed optimised design with just 20 sensors.

Through design iteration of both hardware and software, the team produced a high-performance tracker with fewer sensors than existing trackers on the market. This will give TG0 a competitive advantage as
we can produce our hardware for a lower cost. The test procedures and calibration pipeline I developed will continue to be used as the production design is finalised to ensure all trackers perform.

Summary

The placement experience has been beneficial to my professional development and future career aspirations. I’m very grateful for the opportunity to contribute to varied projects. Working at different levels within the technology stack has kept me engaged and always learning about new aspects of VR technology and design. It has been great to work with the team on innovative products, that are going out into the real world, and I’m excited to work with TG0 in the future to come.

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