One of the aspects about the resurgence of virtual reality that I find most exciting is the possibility (or necessity) to build physical sets to match your gameplay experience. There is so much area for fun here, your imagination can totally run wild. Abhishek Singh really  had some fun with this concept by building a dragon to ride, while playing his dragon riding game.

How to Ride a Dragon

I asked Abhishad a few questions about his experience in building VR and real things, meshed together.

Why did you build it?

From Avatar and How to Train your Dragon to Game of Thrones, I’m sure we’ve all wished at least once that we had our own dragon. I built this VR experience so we could get some sense of what it would feel like to ride one. I’ve always been interested in linking the physical world with the virtual and the experience wouldn’t have been any fun if there wasn’t a large physical dragon that you got to ride.

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What was the part that gave you the most trouble?

Every aspect of the build had some challenges involved. I had to learn a 3D modeling program to be able to both model and animate the dragon and the environment. On the fabrication end, I had to work a lot to ensure the contraption was perfectly balanced so users wouldn’t struggle to manipulate its pitch. I also had to figure out a way so I could quickly set up and dismantle the contraption. Eventually the entire assembly comes together like lego blocks and can then easily be taken apart and packed. And finally getting all the pieces — the sensors, the unity app, the Arduino, and the server — to communicate with each other so that the physical movements synced perfectly with those in the headset took some figuring out.

If you did it over, what would you do differently?

I want to add a multiplayer aspect to it as well so you can fly through the world along with other riders as a dragon fleet of sorts. This of course will require more dragons to be built! I’ve been experimenting with using a fan to recreate the sensation of wind blowing in your face and would want to add that in. It’s currently an exploration game but I would maybe add a storyline to give the rider a purpose and mission.

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What are people’s reactions when they use it?

People love it! It draws attention even before they put the headset on and that was my aim with building the entire dragon contraption. When they walk into the room it is kind of empowering, magical and exciting and those are emotions that I want users to carry with them into the virtual world as well. It’s a hit with people of all ages and I’ve seen adults and kids stand in line for hours to get to ride it. Also while most people felt they might get nauseous, I had very few such complaints even when I put them into a barrel roll. I think the connection between the movements in the physical and virtual world definitely helped with that.

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