Pixel Farm recently leveraged the experiential power of Virtual Reality (VR) to demonstrate 3M’s retroreflective technology used on road signage, pavement markings, and work zone materials. Outside of bringing people to an actual test track, VR proved to be the best platform to allow users to witness up-close how 3M’s technology works. And where better to showcase this experience than at the American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA) conference in Phoenix, Arizona last month.
3M defines retroreflectivity as when “a large amount of reflected light is returned directly to the original light source.” 3M’s objective is to improve road safety with their retroreflective technology, which makes road signs and pavement markings noticeably more visible to drivers whether driving at night or through harsh weather conditions. In order to create the most spot-on demonstration of retroreflectivity, our VR designers worked directly with 3M scientists to get the math right. Real world variables such as distance, angle of reflectivity, and signage color informed our creation of luminance masks and custom shaders that would emulate the real deal.
Developed for Oculus Rift® and built on the tried-and-true Unity® game engine, the PFVR team was able to strike a delicate balance between the “heavy” rendering requirements of retroreflectivity at dawn/dusk environments and zero latency playability for the user. Coupled with Thrustmaster® racing steering wheels, we were able to create an experience that at once demonstrates 3M’s superior technology yet feels very close to driving an actual car.
Drivers moved through three distinct environments during the experience: Mountains, Highlands, and Desert. Due, in part, to VR’s infancy as a viable creative medium, our team used this unique opportunity to push the envelope on how experiences and stories can be told in this space. We made the UX decision very early on to use portals as a means of transporting users from one rural environment to another. Additionally, our audio team created custom spacialized sound beds to truly immerse the user into the specific locale.
For the ATSSA Conference, Pixel Farm partnered with FreemanXP to develop the 3M booth, which included six high-end PCs that ran the experience throughout each day. Having a VR booth was unique for ATSSA, and attendees were quick to notice. By the end of the third and final day, we gave 300+ VR demos and drew in crowds of over 1000 attendees.