Virtual Reality discussion at Patterson Technology

Presenter and virtual reality expert Josh McCombe discusses using tracking pucks in virtual reality applications Thursday night at a talk hosted by the Effingham Area Software Development Group. Kaitlin Cordes photo

EFFINGHAM — The world of virtual reality is blossoming, thanks to interest from people like former Lake Land College student Josh McCombe. McCombe spent last summer interning with Lake Land professor Scott Rhine, and McCombe created a virtual reality technology demonstration.

A recent presentation was hosted at Patterson Technology by the Effingham Area Software Development Group, which is a group of local developers who gather to share information, technology and innovation in the field.

McCombe described virtual reality as an intricate software that has a seemingly simple appearance.

"It's simplistic on its surface, but developing a virtual reality app can easily get very, very mind-boggling if you're not careful and you don't pace yourself, especially if your doing it for the first time," McCombe told an audience of 15 tech-minded people.

McCombe said developing a virtual reality application requires knowledge of locomotion in the game or app, physics of objects featured in the software and user interaction with the virtual environment. For his internship, McCombe said he and Rhine developed software and hardware, respectively, consisting of an office chair with a tracking puck, used to detect movement on an object, and a wooden table with numerous buttons and joy sticks wired up on it.

McCombe said he had to go through some "trial-and-error" runs with his virtual reality application, including how to accurately determine the office chair's position and dimensions in the virtual world.

He said he also wanted to include the sensation of vibration when an object exploded in his virtual reality app. This was done with a motor from a vibrating bed, popular in the early 1980s.

"Really, you're trying to insert your user into this world, so it's about how realistic of an experience you're trying to create," McCombe said.

It's talks like the one McCombe presented Thursday that pushed developers Ryan Condron and Joey Meyer to create the Effingham Area Software Development Group. Most recently, the group added John Boos developer Logan Malcome.

Condron said developers from the Effingham area often had to travel to St. Louis to attend discussions about innovations in their field, so he and Meyer decided to create a local group in which area developers can discuss new technologies and software while getting help from other developers with their questions regarding their work.

The trio work as developers at local companies to help make the companies' processes run more efficiently. Meyer is employed by Patterson Technology, and Condron works with J and J Ventures.

"We learn processes, and we determine better ways to do things. As you learn the process, you can see inefficiencies and see an application you can write to maybe aid them in their job duties," Meyer said.

Meyer, Condron and Malcome agreed that one thing the group does best is connecting developers or even just individuals who have an interest in technology and sciences. Condron said often, people come to their presentations out of interest in the specific topic and to also network with other developers in the Effingham area.

Malcome said since recently joining the group, he has already acquired knowledge in several areas in the software development field and has also met others within the field that he did not know existed.

"It's been a great resource for Lake Land, specifically, and students in general," Malcome said. "Since I first started coming here, I've just learned a lot from just meeting people and talking about subjects we're interested in and even jobs that are local."

The Effingham Area Software Development Group meets every second Thursday of the month. However, September's meeting will be held on Sept. 10 with a discussion on Lake Land College's innovation lab.

For more information on the group and its presentations, visit www.meetup.com/Effingham-Area-Software-Development-Group/.

Kaitlin Cordes can be reached at kaitlin.cordes@effinghamdailynews.com or 217-347-7151 ext. 132.