Pick of the Day: Creator Academy: The Hall of Materials

Like Learn to Create Materials, an experience I highlighted back on Sept. 13th, the new Creator Academy: The Hall of Materials experience by Sansar Studios seeks to educate rather than entertain (although the following promotional video tries to do both!):

The Creator Academy is a place for you to learn about rendering materials, and audio and physics materials. There are examples of all these types of materials, and interactive exhibits where you can press buttons to try out different combinations of materials and see what they look like.

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The Hall is well-designed, although I did find that the shiny, metallic finish of the grey metal plaques describing each display made reading the white lettering a little difficult at times (see picture below for an example). A higher-contrast text display (simple black lettering on a white panel) would make things easier for people with visual difficulties to read everything easily. I understand why they wanted to make it look “cool” and metallic, but I think this was a poor design choice. Many people who use and advocate virtual worlds have some sort of real-life disability. From the very beginning, Sansar needs to incorporate well-thought-out design features for people with accessibility issues.

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Another problem I had with this experience, when I visited it a second time using a less-powerful desktop computer in desktop (non-VR) mode, is that the video displays demonstrating media surfaces would not play. I have noticed that Agustine had posted a bug report to the Sansar community forums about this particular issue, and I wonder how many other people cannot get video to play properly on media surfaces in Sansar. (As far as I know, Agustine is still having this problem, and it has not yet been fixed.)

The interactive displays, such as this one which demonstrates the effect of different values of PBR metalness and roughness values, have buttons which you are supposed to press in order to see what they look like on the mesh object.

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I found that I could not get the buttons to work at all in desktop mode. When I was in a VR headset, most of the time I could not select the buttons either. Even worse, when I moved too close to the panel, it automatically selected a button from the bottom row! Based on my experiences and frustrations with these panels over several different visits to this experience over several days, this feature definitely needs work. Or perhaps some better visual instructions. (I was able to get the different buttons to work on my very first visit in a VR headset, but no matter what I did, I have been unable to repeat that success on subsequent visits.)

At the rear of the hall is a circular room with floor panels that demonstrate the effects of various physical audio materials in Sansar, which affects sounds like footsteps and reverb. The panels are for sand, ceramic, glass, carpet, dirt, brick, concrete, plaster, rock, gravel, grass, metal, water, wood, and snow (just in time for the Christmas experiences!).

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I particularly like the glowing “dust motes” that circulate over the panels. It’s obvious that a lot of design thought and work went into this experience. However, the bugs and issues I encountered can make it a very frustrating exercise. Linden Lab needs to work on this one a bit more, in my opinion.

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