Interview with MiTale’s Project Manager and 3D Artist Oskari Tamminen on Virtual Reality

One of MiTale’s services is 2D & 3D integration in VR and AR applications. As VR is becoming more and more recognized and used by different industries that hope to leverage its endless possibilities, today MiTale’s Project Manager and 3D Game Artist Oskari Tamminen will share with us his insights into the world of Virtual Reality and how VR can be incorporated into different business spheres.

Oskari, could you share with us what drew you to VR – is it something you aspired to work on as an engineer, or did it happen unexpectedly?

I became familiar with VR development while I was working as a 3D artist for Turku Game Lab (TGL), a learning environment at the Turku University of Applied Sciences. When I started at TGL in Jan 2016 my priority was simply to improve my modelling skills and get experience in game development. After few months I got the chance to test out one of the early development versions of Oculus. The first demo that I tried was just this simple visualisation of a detached house with a small yard outside. That was the moment that I realised the possibilities of this new tech. The demo was poorly done by today’s standards but the whole experience was so immersive and unreal that for a moment I forgot where I was. After that I found myself taking the device home every weekend so that I could try different games with whatever community made VR mods were available. One of the best VR experiences I’ve ever had is playing Alien: Isolation with the Oculus DK2. Hiding from the Alien in a small locker, carefully peeking outside through the locker door’s metal grid and trying to hear if it was safe to exit; it is still one of the most terrifying gaming experiences I’ve ever had.

What are some of the projects you’ve worked on? Besides using VR in gaming, which industries have used VR the most in your experience so far?

In the past five years I’ve participated in several game jams and in three of those we did a VR game prototype. Game jams are events where the idea is to design and create a playable game demo inside a short time frame (e.g. 48 h) following a given topic.

While in TGL I worked as a part of a research group that did a VR visualisation of the Visitor and Innovation Centre Joki, a Fire safety training tool called VirPa and a spacewalking game with a model of the International Space Station.

So far, the most interesting project has been the VR tour that we’re currently developing for Viking Line for their new ship that is scheduled to launch this spring.

It is hard to say which  industry is using VR the most since there are so many possible applications. Safety training in different environments, visualisation for sales purposes or simply for designing interiors, pain therapy for patients, therapy to treat different types of phobias, and virtual tourism especially now during the global pandemic. The list goes on and on. As I see it, every large company is at least doing research on how to utilize VR in the future if they are not using it already.

Where do you see MiTale in the VR/AR market? What does MiTale bring to the table?

MiTale is still a relatively young company, but we have already managed to get a nice foothold in the market and several large companies in our portfolio. The global pandemic didn’t really help during our growth phase yet we made through the 2020 as a profitable company. Most importantly we have gained valuable experience and the whole situation has really glued our team together. MiTale’s strength is the team and our diverse skillset that enables our company to offer unique and interactive narrative-driven experiences regardless of the platform that content is aimed to perform and engage with its target-users. We’re geeks, gamers and developers with years of experience from developing both serious (R&D) and commercial games. This is why we see a huge business potential in expanding the knowledge through our services to other industries that can benefit from utilizing best practices from the gaming industry.

How do you see the future of VR? Do you think it will be one of the core functionalities of software design?

I think VR tech is still young and we have just scratched the surface. In 10 or 20 years it’s going to be as important a part of our everyday life as mobile phones are today. It might be just a pair of light glasses that we use instead of a TV. Why have an expensive TV on the wall when you can just put on a pair of glasses and be right in the middle of the action? AR elements will surround us wherever we go. It’s not going to be just fun and games but also annoying targeted ads when we walk around the city. Reminders and notifications while we work and helpful information when we travel, directly in front of our eyes. We might still carry around something similar to our phones today, but it will just be a power unit for our glasses.

I don’t know much about software development but I can see VR being used for design and architecture. Whatever you’re building or designing, why look at it on a monitor when you can see it directly on your desk or around you?

What was the biggest challenge you faced switching to the VR/AR paradigm?

Traditionally developers can fake a lot of things in a game environment and some  3D-models are more like set pieces on a theatre stage or only halfway done in some other way. In VR/AR, the 3D-models are required to be more detailed and completely intact because people love to inspect everything very closely. Optimizing assets is also something that cannot be ignored anymore even in relatively small projects. Running VR takes a lot of power to run and even small areas with unoptimized assets will ruin smooth gameplay.

Are there any tips you can give to young software developers who are aiming to become specialists in this field?

Keep studying in your free time (or discuss your learning goals with your supervisor/employer) and push yourself to try new things. You don’t have to go out of your comfort zone all the time but challenge yourself to try new things on a regular basis. The industry is moving so fast that it’s easy to fall off the wagon. Something that was standard a year ago might not apply anymore today.

What are some of the future VR projects that MiTale will be working on?

Personally, I want to do more customer projects related to architecture visualisation. We also have a few interesting VR game ideas, but they are something that we will talk about sometime in the future. Meanwhile we have two IPs that we are developing in MiTale which are showing really good KPI, so keep an eye on our posts and updates to learn more what is cooking up for releases in 2021!

Interview by Milica Bulatovic

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