ZERO ONE has been working with adidas Global since 2010, when we were engaged to build 3D shoes for their adiVerse Virtual Footwear Wall in-store touchscreen. Due to the large number of shoes displayed on-screen, both high and low-resolution versions were built. A design could be selected and magnified to display information, including: a split version to show integrated technologies, adjusting its colourway, and viewed at any angle – all in realtime. More than 4000 shoes were created over an eight year period, with additional designs and updates added every season.
A meeting at the adidas Global Head Office in 2016 showcased a few technology solutions in development at ZERO ONE. Full-body motion capture using the Microsoft Kinect system allowed virtual shoes to be overlaid on a live video feed of the user, and various shoe configurators with additional interactive solutions were shown. Discussions then moved to Virtual Reality and the possibilities it offered. A year or so later, adidas got in touch for the redesign of their Flagship store in Paris, which was to be the definitive design for all other stores worldwide.
At this time, development was underway for a home configurator called Virtual Showroom. It was initially marketed to developers as a B2B/B2C platform for the design, construction and building industries. It allows designers, developers and end-users to experience and customise every aspect of a design in VR before it is built. Interactive room scale VR provides the user with tools to change fittings, finishes and furniture in real-time, and at different times of day. This platform was the basis for the adidas Paris project, with a modified version adapted to work with larger commercial premises. Certain elements such as the ‘Dollhouse Mode’, which allows the user to look inside a miniature version of the home were not used, whereas other tools and functionality were added to aid in the design process.
VIRTUAL SHOWROOM: ADIDAS PARIS FLAGSHIP STORE
ZERO ONE worked closely with adidas designers to visualise the interior and exterior streetscape for their Paris Champs-Élysées flagship store in full room scale VR. This store defined the design rollout for all of adidas stores globally. Working collaboratively allowed adidas to understand exactly how design decisions would affect the end-user, and working in opposite time zones proved to be surprisingly beneficial to the iterative design process. Initially the revision cadence was agreed to be once or twice a week, but as the project progressed, ZERO ONE was able to work on change requests overnight to deliver updates by the start of adidas’ business day, allowing more revisions to occur in the time allotted.
The benefits VR provided to adidas went well beyond a simple visual experience, with the lead designer stating “This is the first time I have ever understood how a store will feel before it was built.” VR enabled design issues to be quickly identified and resolved in a way that would not work in a non-VR design pipeline, saving significant costs at the building stage. Several issues were avoided, such as a lighting rig for the stadium area, which would have obscured the entry projection screen from several seating positions. Testing fatigue was avoided with the simple VR capability of quickly moving around to view scenes from different angles and heights at the click of a button.
Several tools were created to aid the capture and transfer of information both within the adidas team and to ZERO ONE. A virtual camera allowed the user to capture still images of the store while in VR, while a later addition added the ability to capture audio so the user could create voice recorded notes associated with each captured image. As the store was intended to have a large amount of projections, interactives and huge video screens, ZERO ONE developed tools for streaming multiple video screens from an external source into the VR scene in a performant manner, with no visible loss in quality. The final environment contained over a dozen live video feeds, all streaming from an external folder accessible by the client. This allowed adidas to experiment with different video options for each projection, area or screen by overwriting the video files in the external folder. This reduced turnaround times and costs as they could test and manage this process without ZERO ONE being involved after the initial set up.
The adidas Paris project is part of an ongoing VR installation at adidas Global’s Head Office in Herzogenaurach, Germany and is available for employees to experience, be it for research, testing or education.
VIRTUAL SHOWROOM: TESTLAB VR
TestLabVR is another tool based on the Virtual Showroom platform. It came about when the team in charge of in-store communications were invited to the Paris Showroom VR experience. It enabled them to quickly test and iterate different layouts and visual elements in a realistic virtual store. Different media is easily swapped while in VR by using a virtual laser-pointer in the controller. This provides immediate feedback to the user about which combinations of live videos, projections and static graphic elements provide the best visual impact. The turnaround for decision-making was reduced from 3 months to 3 weeks.
ZERO ONE continues to invest in Research and Development for many different areas of XR. WebGL is an exciting platform that offers a true cross-platform experience that works on browsers for mobile devices, PCs and laptops, as well as mobile and PC-based VR headsets. The ability to have a single web page with an embedded interactive experience greatly reduces costs by allowing the development team to focus on a single platform that provides a similar experience across all platforms. A working prototype has been developed with VR integration for the Oculus Quest mobile headset, along with all PC-based VR hardware. A shared multi-user VR experience with streaming voice communications allows users to interact in the same space, interacting and customising the product as ideas are shared.