A week later, the second bootcamp, “Intro to Mixed Reality,” would take place with an almost entirely different group of students, but just like the first session, the learning was immediate. Berry began with a short presentation, describing the distinctions between virtual reality (completely digital), augmented reality (both virtual and real—“just think Pokemon Go”), and mixed reality: real and virtual with the added bonus of an interactive environment. And soon after, each student faced their computer, hopped into the Unity 3D game engine, and began following Berry’s instructions on building a 3D environment.
Each student started by creating the same basic 3D cube and flat terrain. But after a few minutes spent learning the tools in Unity, students’ screens were filled with shapes of varied colors and textures, strangely disfigured trees, and terrains filled with eccentric mountains and hills. After students were introduced to the Unity Asset Store, which contains free and for-purchase 3D models, the students’ environments further divulged from one another. Some creations were more conservative, such as a model car in a valley of pink hills, while others were far more extreme, like a forest of entangled tree branches overlapping with cubes, buildings, and human figurines.
As students experimented in their virtual environments, Berry further elaborated on how one could toggle an environment’s lighting, create scripts to dictate how objects move in the environment, or connect their scenes to a virtual reality headset to view it for themselves. Certain decisions can be “artistic,” Berry added, while others could have a specific function, particularly in a game.
After the basics of Unity were established, the rest of the bootcamp was spent testing the creative limits of the game engine (hint: there were none) and using a VR headset to interact with a preloaded mixed reality game. Donning the clunky headset once again, Berry demonstrated how the students could teleport across the virtual world, shoot arrows onto a target, or even create an explosion of flowers.