This week was spent wrapping up my project. In my meeting with my mentor, we discussed the design for the future study, such as how many groups the participants should be divided into, what the participants should do during the experiment, and which questionnaires should be used to measure the participants’ cybersickness. I have also been coordinating with the PhD student who will be running the study so that he can take over the Unity projects. To finish up the week, I presented my work to my mentor’s lab. It was interesting to hear the perspectives and questions from other students in the lab.
The hospital and rollercoaster scenes are almost done! The hospital scene had some issues with lag because it is very detailed and there are a lot of polygons to render. This was improved slightly by changing some settings for occlusion culling, which is a feature that disables rendering of objects when they are behind other objects. For example, it isn’t necessary to render every object behind a wall because they won’t be seen anyway, so using this feature can improve the runtime performance of the project.
I started this week by completing the “Social/Behavioral or Humanist Research Investigators and Key Personnel” course from the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI Program). This course is required for researchers involved in human research. Although I don’t think I will have time to work with human subjects before the end of the summer, it was a good learning opportunity to go through the training.
Although I implemented the outline shader last week, for some reason when I tried it out on the VR headset, the effect didn’t show up at all. I ended up spending many hours this week researching why a post processing effect would work in the Unity editor but not in the headset. After many failed attempts to fix this problem, I finally figured out that Unity didn’t include the shader when building the project, and I build and run the project each time I play it on the headset, which is why it wasn’t showing up in the built version. To fix this, I had to add the shader to a list of shaders in the graphics settings that are always stored with the project.
This week, I went back to working with shaders. I had been struggling to figure out how to apply them in Unity, so I reached out to a PhD student in Dr. Interrante’s lab who has more experience working with Unity. She shared some helpful tutorials with me about the basics of applying a shader in Unity, which helped my understanding of the different places in the Unity pipeline that a shader can be applied. My mentor also found another tutorial that explains how to apply an outline shader, which uses the Unity post-processing stack.
In our weekly lab meeting, it was my turn to present a paper from the IEEE VR 2021 conference. I presented a paper about using individual differences of users to predict susceptibility to cybersickness in VR, which I chose because I was interested in learning about other aspects of cybersickness. I thought there were some questionable parts of the paper, and I was impressed how many other details Dr. Interrante and other members of lab pointed out that I hadn’t noticed. It reminded me how important it is to read papers critically and question whether the methods and conclusions that the writers make are valid.
We had a zoom visit from the author of the paper we read last week (“Can I Not Be Suicidal on a Sunday?”: Understanding Technology-Mediated Pathways to Mental Health Support”). It was really interesting to hear about the background of the author and the study, as well as details that weren’t included in the paper.
This week started with an REU seminar on reading research papers. I learned many helpful tips on how to find papers in online databases and keep track of them, as well as how papers are structured and strategies to use when reading the papers, such as skimming the article and looking at the main points and visuals first rather than reading the whole thing linearly. During the week, we read a paper on technology-mediated mental health support in India and discussed it as a group at our first REU workshop at the end of the week.
This week, the University of Minnesota’s REU program began. Though I am not a participant in the program, I am invited to the events since I am doing research in the department. It was interesting to learn about the research that other faculty in the department are doing, and I’m looking forward to meeting the other students that will be working with my mentor soon.
This week, I met with my mentor, Dr. Victoria Interrante, and discussed the projects that she is working on. We decided that I would work on a project to prevent cybersickness in virtual reality experiences. Many people experience nausea, eye strain, or other types of sickness when using VR technology. The objective of this project is to develop non photorealistic filters in order to reduce the detail of the environment, which may be less sickness inducing than a very photorealistic, detailed environment.