Boom! The white globe in front of you explodes into an array of color and light. A fraction of a second later – whoosh! – glowing stars streak past your head, leaving you in their colorful wake.
Reaching toward the holographic interface, with the motion of a single finger, you take control of time itself. The firework slows. Stops. Then it begins to recede back to the center. You slow time again as the stars ease past you, watching as the firework surrounds you. Entropy turns on its head again, and the firework calmly implodes into a single white globe.
But how would this firework look in orange and yellow? Exploding in a spiral pattern? You casually switch between holographic menu panels to make some changes. You’re about to find out with Firework Factory VR.
The Next Generation of User Interfaces
User interfaces (UIs) play a crucial role in virtual and augmented reality, especially at this early stage of the medium’s evolution. In many ways, Firework Factory VR is an experiment with UI design for VR – with the goal of creating a beautiful, easy-to-use, and approachable user interface.
At the core of the UI, you’ll find the Hover VR Interface Kit (also created by Aesthetic Interactive). Firework Factory VR builds upon the Hoverboard interface, adding three-dimensional icons, smooth flip/slide/fade transitions, and custom tab-shaped items. Hover VR interfaces use the Leap Motion Controller, providing hand-based interactions and strong sense of immersion in the virtual space. By standardizing on a “hover” selection method, these interfaces encourage consistent and reliable usability across all types of menus.
The Hover VR project began as a single interface, Hovercast, which places an arc-shaped beyond the fingertips of one hand. You can learn more about the core concepts behind Hover VR in my posts Power At Your Fingertips and Behind The Design.
Hover VR interfaces like Hovercast promote easy, intuitive, reliable menu interactions – remaining simple even as an application’s menus and options become more complex.
Engineering Your Own Explosions (And Sharing Them Too!)
Firework Factory VR gives you the power to create millions of unique firework combinations, then watch them explode all around you. In the “Factory,” you build fireworks by selecting colors, sizes, shapes, and styles. Each firework has two groups of settings (“A” and “B”) for customizing its stars, tails, and explosion patterns. Each change immediately affects the firework, so you can see exactly how the current selections will look.
The customizations don’t end with the fireworks, however. You can control the flow of time, moving forward or in reverse. You can set the position, motion, and direction of your “camera”. Ultimately, you’re in control of the experience. You could choose a fast, loud, in-your-face firework experience. Or you might prefer a slow, smooth, bullet-time perspective. The choice is yours – and you can transition seamlessly from one mode to the next.
You can also enhance your experience with the “share” feature. Every firework combination generates a unique Firework ID, which you can use to save, share, and load your favorites. The “share” feature also creates a high-quality image of your firework, making it easy to show off your best creations. Be sure to mention @FireworkVR on your Twitter posts!
Example firework images, generated by the “share” feature.
Support Indie VR!
Firework Factory VR is available as a free demo, which gives you full access to the “experience” features (like controlling time and the camera), but limited options for customizing your fireworks.
Once VR devices are available to consumers, we’ll be making the full version of Firework Factory VR available for purchase. In the meantime, you can support Aesthetic Interactive’s exploration into new VR apps and tools by sharing this blog post, the app video, or your firework images on social media. Aesthetic Interactive is a small software development company with big ideas for how we’ll interact, create, and explore in virtual reality. We would really appreciate your feedback, participation, and support!
The code and concepts behind Firework Factory VR provide a strong foundation for future projects. From this foundation, we plan to build applications focused on creativity, visualization, and learning – where VR and 3D input devices (like the Leap Motion Controller) make exciting new experiences possible.
The Hover VR Interface Kit will also evolve, with new interfaces and ways to improve usability. Other potential projects include things like a visual “harness” to guide gesture-based input, and a tool for natural-looking avatar movement using data from VR headsets and 3D input devices. If you are interested in learning more about any of these projects, feel free to reach out to @zachkinstner on Twitter!
This demo is just one small (but explosive!) step toward a larger vision for virtual reality experiences – exploring how they should look, feel, and function. How does it feel to be surrounded by fireworks? To use the menu interface? To control time itself? Let us know!