Finding Inspiration for XR in Paris

My fiancee and I spent the last week in Paris to celebrate four years together. Paris is where we officially became a couple, so it was nice revisiting the city four years later at a much different point in our lives and relationship.

However, this article details how I found personal and professional inspiration to learn mixed reality development in an unlikely place.

Photo of Female Statues and Architecture from Paris by Devlin

After letting our clients know in advance that we would be out of office, we spent the week visiting museums, walking around the city, and trying as much new vegan food as we could. The warm baguettes from local bakeries helped us fight off the cold, but the rain was another story…(let’s just say that our jackets weren’t as waterproof as we would have liked).

Devlin and Taylor outside Versailles

One day, we needed to burn a couple of hours before another shop opened up. We went to the nearby Musée des Arts et Métiers (Museum of Arts and Industry). This industrial design museum is filled with scientific instruments and technological inventions dating back centuries.

A couple of hours in, we came across scaled down models of large-scale inventions, such as printing presses, mechanical looms, and boring machines.

Model in Musee des Arts et Metiers

While looking at some of these machines, I couldn’t help but want to see them in action. Where did the people stand? What were they physically doing to help operate the machine? How quickly did the machine operate?

My fiancee and I hypothesized answers to these questions, but I wanted more. I couldn’t shake the thought: What if I could hold my smartphone up to the model and see it in action?

This is when the capabilities of augmented reality really hit me. I realized how much more of an immersive and educational experience we could have had if the museum had an AR-enabled app to support the exhibit.

Sure, I could have looked up animated YouTube videos about how these machines worked, but seeing it happen in physical space in front of me would have trumped any other virtual experience.

Thinking about it now, perhaps the only thing that would compete with the augmented reality experience would be operating the machine yourself in a 3D-virtual reality environment.

Either way, this experience gave me the push I needed to hunker down and learn Unity for AR and VR development.

I dove into VR development in the past with Amazon Sumerian, but I gave it up soon thereafter after building a project and experiencing it on the web.

The experience was too glitchy for use with any of my corporate clients, so I decided to table the technology until it was further along.

After this reawakening of just how powerful mixed reality applications can be, I decided that Unity would be my best option this time around. Even though it isn’t as easy to use as Sumerian and isn’t designed to publish directly to web, I can publish native applications for nearly every popular device on the market…allowing me to take full advantage of each device’s functionality.

Giving up direct-to-web publishing for a smooth, error-free experience now seemed like an easy trade-off. I planned my learning path while still in Paris by bookmarking all of the tutorials that I would start with upon my return home.

Now here I am! Back in Florida and 10 hours into my first Unity tutorials. I’m moving through them quite quickly due to my background in Amazon Sumerian and my coding experience, so I’m excited to get to the intermediate tutorials soon.

If you’re a fellow eLearning developer, I encourage you to look into the Unity platform and what it’s capable of. They have a plethora of learning resources and the community seems amazing so far.

If you’re not yet convinced, feel free to follow along on my journey. I hope to have some VR and AR portfolio pieces early next year!