With the tourism industry experiencing strikes due to the Covid-19 pandemic, people have no choice but to put their travel plans on hold. But with the rollout of forward-looking technologies, there are still alternative ways of experiencing the thrills of wanderlust—among them are the opportunities afforded by virtual reality (VR).
In the webinar titled “3D Interactive Non-Player Character (NPC) for a Virtual Guided Tour”, UTAR Centre for Immersive Technology and Creativity Chairperson Dr Aloysius Yapp and lecturer Lim Chai Kim talked about this immersive technology and showcased their VR project.
The webinar, which took place after the e-KLESF opening ceremony on 23 October 2021, featured the sharing of the development of 3D Computer Graphics Generated (CGI) Non-Player Character (NPC) for a virtual guided tour to an Iban longhouse.
During the webinar, Dr Aloysius Yapp played a short video and explained the Iban longhouses in Sarawak. “Through the design of the longhouses, we can see the importance of community spirit among the Iban people. The Iban mostly converted the longhouses from wooden traditional longhouses to modern concrete longhouses. Based on our observation, modernisation and urbanisation will cause old longhouses to be slowly abandoned and demolished. This was one of our main objectives before the pandemic. We tried to gather all the experts in the field to come out with a solution for the virtual longhouses,” he said.
He explained the different types of immersive technologies and described immersive technology as an art, applied science and engineering that aim to simulate the real world or pre-virtualise a fictional or future world with the highlight of the importance of STEM. “Seeing the tangible and intangible values of Iban heritage and culture and the inevitable advancement of humanity, it is important to keep it in a manner that will be appreciated by the generation to come,” he said.
He further explained the importance of building a framework for a VR project and shared the journey as well as the efforts put by the team on the longhouse project since 2013. He defined the meaning of NPC, explaining that it refers to an important aspect of most video games. “An NPC is any character not controlled by either the player or an AI. It can be an important character, or simply one that populates the game world. He shared the process of constructing an NPC and highlighted that elements of a character should be carefully researched and featured. He also shared the role of NPC in the project, saying that the purpose is to guide the user on where to go next or to prompt the user to do a certain action.
On the other hand, Lim shared more information about the programming and technical aspects of the project. She explained the characteristics and the roles of the NPCs in the project which included Iban man, Iban girl, cat and fish. The webinar was then followed by a conclusion and a Q&A session.
The team has participated in KLESF actively from 2017 to promote art to primary and secondary school students. They also put their effort into promoting the art through the latest VR Iban Longhouse virtual guided walkthrough to the public by using online platforms.
Click here to view the video.