Robots in the Metaverse, the O3DE Interview

Questions that I may be asked during O3DE panel discussion on April 13th

O3DE Robot Simulation

O3DE Robot Simulation

BEVERLY HILLS, CA ( 2023/4/4 – SAVE THE DATE! I’m part of the Linux Foundation and O3DF Foundation robotics panel discussion on Thursday, April 13th, 2023 at 8am pt on Zoom. Building synergy between the metaverse and robotics industries with O3DE. Register today!

As preparation for my panel, I was asked several questions…

What do you see as the trends and challenges of robotics simulators?

To answer that question, I may touch upon:

● Key trends in robotics: robotics and metaverse converging
● Developer challenges: hardware and software improving
● Robots in the hospital metaverse
● Robots in the precision farming metaverse
● Robots in the gaming metaverse
● Robots in the retail metaverse
● Robots in the ground and air transportation metaverse

Given the vast array of robotics simulators, what considerations that go into choosing one?

At Econolite, the traffic controller company, I worked with VISSIM, a simulator popular for modeling ground transportation systems. I’ve also created simulations using game engines such as O3DE, Unreal Engine and Unity. An issue with VISSIM and Unity is they are closed source. Difficult or impossible to bug-fix or extend them. That can matter a lot.

When I was design strategist for Lenovo ThinkReality AR glasses, we encountered an issue with path searching for loading our dlls in Unity. For efficiency, we needed the directory search order reversed. While it made no noticeable difference to Unity users running on the desktop, on our ARM Snapdragon embedded processor it took minutes to do a path search that was expected to seem instantaneous. A critical bug for us, but to nobody else. Unity said they may fix it in six months. That would be after our announced trade show live demo deadline. We’d have to find a way to hide the problem during our demo. Couldn’t fix the cause ourselves due to closed source.

Before working at Lenovo, I was the animation software architect at House of Moves, Hollywood’s largest motion-capture sound stage. Created software used to produce visual effects for major motion pictures and a hit cartoon series. When rendering, we noticed an off-by-one error deep inside Unreal Engine. Everything we output was off by one frame. Because Unreal is open source, we were able to fix it ourselves. Within two days we dug into the engine source and found the loop with the indexing error. That couldn’t have happened with closed source. We met our production deadline, which was that week.

Because we considered it urgent, both day and night crew programmers were working on fixing the Unreal bug. The night programmer was so exhausted he forgot to tell me he had fixed it, so I fixed it again myself the next day. It had taken each of us a day to analyze the issue and a day to fix a bug in open source code that neither of us knew. While we may never be planning to modify anything ourselves in the open source software upon which we rely, it is crucial in deadline-driven situations that we can do so to cope with surprises.

What is the impact of Open Source in Robotics?

Something we may want to discuss is that open source robotic software in real world applications may need to be certified as a safety-critical system.

When we installed the robotic studio cameras at the NBC WMAQ-TV Chicago, we had paper signs taped to the unboxed robotic cameras with a skull and cross bones. It read, “Do not stand here. It could kill you.” The sign warning broadcast engineers installing the cameras was necessary to warn anyone like me building the robotic studio. Do not stand next to a large robotic camera when powering it on. That robotic camera is an autonomous vehicle. Could run you over or pivot abruptly to throw you through a wall.

For daily newscast operations, the NBC news cameras were installed to run autonomously on a ringed camera floor without any humans on the camera floor with the cameras. Just in case a news anchor would foolishly step beyond safety of the raised news desk onto the camera floor with the robotic cameras running, we installed a studio kill switch to shut down all the cameras.

What is the future role of the Open 3D Engine?

Expect we may continue as we do now, creating bespoke game servers as state machines to power 3D worlds rendered using open source game engines like 03DE. The state of the art today. However, O3DE comes with a high-performance networking Gem game server. Perhaps in the future we’ll use game servers built into game engines.

Being freely available, 03DE is going to bring more budding artists and graphics students into 3D. For newbies creating 3D assets, mastering Blender or Maya is asking a lot. I am the project manager for CinePaint, open source software with 2D image editing features similar to Adobe Photoshop. CinePaint is adding basic 3D capabilities, yet will retain the simplicity of working in layers that 2D artists are so familiar. Want to enable 2D artists, including myself, to do 3D in the same tool.

I am the project manager for MCARE, an open source 3D hospital metaverse that I developed working at the UN World Health Organization. The AR Group I led at WHO has since disbanded, but more than a dozen UN Volunteers have asked to help continue MCARE development as a free open source metaverse project to create digital twins of all 50,000+ hospitals in the world.

I am also involved in 03DE. Anyone who wants to help with any of my open source projects may reach out by connecting to me on LinkedIn.

More about my April 13th panel:

About Robin Rowe

Robin Rowe

Robin Rowe, has developed metaverse and robotics technology, is a Hollywood creative technologist, engineering director, product designer, AI research lab director, and C++ software architect. Project manager for CinePaint, open source HDR graphics software used in making the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings films. Developed Unreal Engine animation system at Hollywood’s largest motion-capture sound stage. Design strategist for Lenovo ThinkReality AR glasses.