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Entertainment innovation with Unity at Carnegie Mellon Thailand

October 21, 2021 in Community | 11 min. read
CMKL University logo and wordmark in orange and red color.
CMKL University logo and wordmark in orange and red color.
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Carnegie Mellon Thailand (CMKL) was established in 2017 as a collaboration between Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and Unity Academic Alliance member institution King Mongkut's Institute of Technology Ladkrabang (KMITL). CMKL University provides cutting-edge education and brings world-class partnerships into a local context, making technology more accessible and driving innovation for the benefit of Thailand, the Southeast Asian region, and beyond. Through its various programs, CMKL tackles the challenges necessary to power future development.

Person with a virtual reality headset standing next to another person in a dark room with a red hue overlaid on the whole image with the logo and words, "Entertainment Innovation Center".

The Entertainment Innovation Center

The Entertainment Innovation Center (EIC) has introduced a unique interdisciplinary MS in Technology and Creative Innovation (MSTCI), formerly known as the MS in Entertainment Innovation. The program places a strong emphasis on the world of professionals, bringing together the brightest scholars and experts from the fields of art, design, engineering, technology, business, and management. The curriculum is wide-ranging, including everything from improvisational acting to building virtual worlds with Unity and other extended reality (XR) technologies. Through the program, students at the EIC learn to collaborate, problem-solve, communicate, and lead.

‍Students typically choose a specific area of focus within the MSTCI program and spend four immersive semesters learning the vocabulary, values, and working patterns of other disciplines, as well. This emphasis on acknowledging and understanding the creativity of others fuels innovation in turn. The EIC aims for a student body with the following composition:

  • 40% students with technical backgrounds
  • 40% students with creative backgrounds
  • 20% students with business/management backgrounds

‍Through a rigorous curriculum that includes training in creative development and technical skills, students from diverse backgrounds work together in capstone groups to devise prototypes and working proofs-of-concept that require creativity and collaboration across disciplines. Final deliverables can be mobile apps, transformational games, performances, exhibitions, products, XR experiences, or artifacts showcased at the annual EIC Playground.

Building virtual worlds with Unity

In the MSTCI program, led by Program Director Natasha Patamapongs, students have the opportunity to create with Unity in two courses: Building Virtual Worlds, taught by creative technologist and tech entrepreneur Kamin Phakdurong, and Building Virtual Worlds II, taught by Unity Certified Instructor and XR specialist Jeremy Luisier. Both are modeled after Entertainment Technology Center cofounder Randy Pausch’s groundbreaking course of the same name, and challenge students to work quickly, creatively, and collaboratively to design functional prototypes with Unity and other software. Building Virtual Worlds students also explore productions and projects in various other entertainment media, their work culminating in public festivals with hundreds of spectators – and an incredible sense of accomplishment. In fact, many Building Virtual Worlds ideas go on to become full-time research projects, student spin-offs, and commercial successes. Let’s take a look at what students are currently working on in Unity!

A theater with red seats, occupied by several people seated, a microphone in the foreground, and a photo of a person holding a ping pong paddle inset in the bottom right.

Virtual Reality Auditorium

Natcha Lohasawad’s Virtual Reality Auditorium for public and improvisational speech practice was created using the Unity XR Interaction Toolkit. Natcha, a recent Faculty of Journalism and Mass Media Studies graduate, seeks to help users face their fears of public speaking through practice in a virtual environment. In the Unity VR application, users can get a true feel for transitioning from backstage to the spotlight on center stage, practice holding a microphone while speaking, and get comfortable with using hand gestures. Need a topic to practice? Natcha’s Virtual Reality Auditorium can help by providing useful prompts. The app cleverly uses color psychology in the lighting scheme, giving a unique feel to each area of the environment. Now, we’re eagerly awaiting her next application to help us deal with our debilitating fear of clowns.

Cave background with scuba diving gear laid out on the ground, with an inset picture of a person in the bottom right.

ThamLuang Cave

Aratchporn Chaladol (Mint) created the ThamLuang Cave experiential and interactive VR documentary to help users understand what it was like when, on June 23, 2018, twelve boys went exploring in Thailand’s Chiang Rai province with their soccer coach and ended up trapped deep inside a cave. The rescue mission was extraordinary and Mint, a Thairath TV-Channel 32 news anchor and Faculty of Arts graduate, takes users through the dangers of the cave – with all the mud and water that Thailand’s monsoon season brings. Mint began with resources like Unity Learn’s Create with VR course and expanded upon the lessons to create a truly immersive version of this powerful story, filled with suspense, heroism, and loss. She has completed an impactful prototype of the first main scene, “The Entrance: Chamber 3,” and we look forward to seeing the upcoming Unity scenes (“Choke Point” and “The Kids”) soon.

Playground with trees and recycling bins, with an inset picture of a person in the bottom right

Recycle VR

Jakarin Sirikulthorn (X) created his Recycle VR game as a fun way to educate children about recycling using Unity and virtual reality. The game employs colorful objects that demonstrate X’s 3D modeling and texturing abilities as well as some carefully chosen items from the Unity Asset Store. In the game, children attempt to toss items into the correct bin to receive points. Successes and failures are met with quirky and engaging sound effects that round out the experience. X, with a background in industrial product design and investment informatics, has just begun his PhD journey. As he delves into work on smart farming and automated drone technology, we’re eager to see the exciting Unity XR applications he’ll come up with next.

Dark blue background with a purple tree on the left, with an inset photo of a person on the bottom right.

Time Out! VR

Ludwik Bacmaga (Ludi) is a Unity developer with CMKL and is working on learning management system gamification. For his project, Ludi created an escape environment with puzzles set in a horror-themed virtual world. The Unity application gives users the sense of a large environment within a small space. He jokes that “there are no bugs, just features!” – including an innovative interaction system where puzzle panels come to the user, keeping the ambience of the confined space at the forefront of the experience. Ludi presents an intriguing duality, combining a sense of classic horror (with a slow reveal) and a modern stylized aesthetic. With his programming skills and XR expertise, we’ll be waiting in suspense to see where Ludi takes this project. (Just no clowns, please.)

Bedroom with a closet, bed, desk with a computer, posters on the wall, and an inset photo of a person on the bottom right

‘90s Room

Gunyootapong Nopakun (Barge) got his start making hip-hop music as a teenager and developed his passion into a career as a TV host and radio DJ. In his Unity VR project, Barge funneled his media creation skills into an immersive experience in 1990s nostalgia. In the virtual room, you can listen to popular songs and watch a curated selection of movie clips from the decade. The room truly evokes the ‘90s sensibility, from the toys one can find around the space to the posters adorning the walls. With Barge’s many talents, we’re sure he’ll continue to be a master of the past and future, and maybe our next Unity Certified Instructor.

Room with a musical keyboard and drums, with an inset photo of a person with a string instrument in the bottom right

Let’s Jam! Music Room

Witchuporn Jingjit (Volt) is an energetic violin virtuoso who started playing the instrument at the age of five and began performing a few years later. Volt brought his love of music to his Unity VR project, creating an experience that mimics a traditional jam session. In his project, virtual instruments allow users to play harmonies that Volt, a Berklee College of Music graduate, created in Logic Pro X and imported into Unity. With the harmonies in place, users can improvise solos and “jam” in VR. The future looks very bright for this friendly young violinist from the Land of Smiles – and for the development of his Unity XR projects.

A person with red hair coming out of a TV, with an inset black and white photo of a person in the bottom right

Where is the Ghost?

Dhanadhat Trairatwongse (Marwin) graduated with an interior design degree and worked at a lighting design company before becoming a TV producer. For his Unity VR project, Marwin decided to bring his lighting experience, production skills, and lifelong affinity for horror movies and games together. He wanted to move beyond a game that makes you jump and toward an experience that makes you doubt your reality. His virtual world is designed to give the user a sense of familiarity while exploring a dark, eerie mansion. The story unravels as you encounter the chilling spectres that haunt it, with atmospheric sounds helping to flesh out the supernatural experience. Wait, was the desk on that side of the room the last time you looked? Are you sure? Marwin isn’t telling.

Nighttime scene with a black sky, gray buildings, a blue and white light house, and red trees, with an inset photo of a person holding an apple in the bottom right

U ‘You’ Life Reflection VR

Vich Sanardharn (Ray-O) is a creative director, editor, music lover, instructor, scriptwriter, and life enthusiast with a passion for experiential design and helping others. For his Unity VR project, Ray-O was interested in creating an experience that would leave an important mark on people’s lives. The application takes users to the Land of Nowhere – aptly named due to the desolate space – where the user does the creating, engaging in self-reflection on values and interpersonal relationships. The experience is rooted in sand tray therapy, where one may construct their own microcosm using miniature toys and colored sand. The created scene acts as a reflection of the user’s life and allows them an opportunity to resolve conflicts, remove obstacles, and gain self-acceptance. We’re fascinated by the concept and where Ray-O plans to take it next.

Are you interested in the MSTCI program at CMKL-EIC? Learn more about the curriculum, scholarships, frequently asked questions, and more. 

Curious about becoming a Unity Academic Alliance member institution like KMITL? Learn more about the program and its benefits.

Want to become a Unity Certified Instructor? Learn how you can make an impact on Unity creators.

October 21, 2021 in Community | 11 min. read
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