3D Models for Virtual Reality: Coursera Course review

Vertex Head

This is the second course in Coursera’s Virtual Reality specialization. This course is a great introduction for learners who are new to game and 3D engines. It gives hands-on experience on how to build 3D environments with premade assets. There’s no coding involved and little technical knowledge is needed, so anyone should be able to jump right in. This course doesn’t specifically address VR usage in education; however, after learning the fundamentals taught in this course, an educator may be able to apply them to their field.

Week 1: 3D Graphics

The first week of this course starts by describing the different types of engines you can use to make VR experiences and games. This course specifically uses Unity, so after introducing other engines, all of the videos use Unity for VR content creation.

This week has a section with an introduction to Unity and its UI. It gives an overview of a lot of the commonly used functions. It also covers how to use the Unity Asset Store and how to import files from the store into Unity.

This section is a really bare bones introduction to Unity, but that might be a good thing for some learners as Unity can look very intimidating the first time you open it up. However, if you have ever used Unity before, you probably already know all the information covered in the lectures discussing Unity in this week.

Unity Logo
You’ll be using the Unity in this course.

Week 2: VR Graphics

This week covers a lot of practical information about using Unity to create 3D environments. The lectures cover how to move, rotate, and scale 3D objects. This section also covers how animation has previously been done in movies and how to animate objects in Unity.

The next section of this week covers the different types of lighting, materials, and textures in Unity. Various light types and how to configure them are covered. Additionally, the videos show how to add materials to objects in Unity.

I think the materials section in this week was sufficient for the short length of the course. However, I wish that animations were covered more in depth. The lectures only cover animating one object and only animating the rotation of that object. I think animation in Unity can be very difficult for a beginner and more examples should have been shown.

Week 3: Audio in VR

Week three covers how sound works. The lectures start off explaining what sound is and what a sound wave is composed of. Some parts of these lectures get much more in depth than most edtech professionals will need to know, but the lectures aren’t too long and it wasn’t difficult to grasp the main concepts of sound.

After discussing the basics of sound, the lectures explain how sound can be used in VR. The lecturer does address some thought provoking topics such as how good sound can “turn a bad picture into a great experience” and how bad sound can “turn a great picture into a bad experience.”

The end of week three covers how sound is used in Unity. Lectures include using compressed audio files vs uncompressed audio files, how to properly implement looping , using audio mixers, and using audio filters in Unity. Lectures also include practical tips like applying reverb effects when sounds are in a large room and adjusting bass frequencies in voice audio should be done when a person is outside speaking.

Although a week isn’t enough for a comprehensive audio course, I think the content in this week was really useful and contains most of the knowledge that an edtech practitioner needs to know to get started for building VR applications and games for education.

Audio mixing in Unity is covered in this section.

Week 4: Content Creation in VR

Week four starts out with the VR graphics pipeline and discussing how shapes are affected by light and end up on the screen. This section also covers how illumination works in world space. Here, shaders are also briefly covered.

The next section of week four covers the considerations between traditional 3D and VR graphics. Differences between traditional video games and VR such as framing, scale, and the speed of the player are also addressed. For example, the lecturers explain that in a traditional 3D video game, the player usually has much less control of the view or camera. In contrast, VR allows players to look almost anywhere, so game designers have to be aware of this when putting together a 3D world.

Finally, the lectures cover different roles in the video game industry and what you should do if you want to work in the industry.

The topics in this week are very insightful for VR theory, specifically differences between traditional 3D games and VR games; however, there was not a lot of content about Unity in this section. I would have liked to seen specific examples of the differences between traditional 3D and VR in Unity and how they would be implemented.

Conclusion

This is a great course for learners new to creating 3D worlds. The lectures are filled with theoretical concepts as well as hands-on examples building a 3D environment using Unity.

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