Student Research Partnership in Digital Arts and the Humanities: Software Developer at Virtual Viking Longship Project

29 September 2023
By Kritika Pandit '26

During the summer, I had the chance to explore Virtual Reality (VR) development through the Virtual Viking Longship Project, supported by a Digital Humanities Advancement Grant. This collaboration between Carleton College and Grinnell College under the supervision of Austin Mason, David Neville, and Tim Arner aimed to create an immersive VR experience showcasing Viking Age longships.

During the internship, I acquired a diverse skill set and learned about effective collaboration. At the core was my immersion in VR development using Unity and C# scripting. Starting from scratch, I transitioned from uncertainty to enthusiasm as I engaged with VR games and projects. This fueled my passion for crafting unique VR experiences and provided a solid foundation.

With guidance from my supervisors and colleagues, I delved into immersive VR development tutorials using Unity with the goal of becoming proficient. The adaptable curriculum allowed me to learn at my own pace, focusing on building foundational skills. This journey included exploring VR software setup, events and interactions, and essential considerations like ergonomics, lighting, and optimization. Venturing into coding in C# marked a transformative phase, emphasizing the value of teamwork and shared knowledge.

Collaborating closely with my teammates, we crafted a Unity project centered on a Viking-inspired chest. Additionally, we introduced an engaging rowing mini-game, incorporating mixed reality elements. In this game, participants could physically row a Viking ship using a tangible stick, blurring the lines between the virtual and real worlds. Leveraging the skills we had acquired, we aimed to infuse cultural relevance and interactivity into our VR experience. This collaborative effort allowed us to apply our theoretical knowledge effectively, bridging the gap between learning and practical application.

The four-day field trip to Moorhead, Minnesota, was a highlight of our project. At the Hjemkomst Center, we had the opportunity to observe an authentic Viking ship and engage in interviews with crew members who had firsthand experience sailing on it. This experience provided us with valuable insights and reference material essential for our ongoing VR model development. It was an educational and inspiring journey, and the knowledge gained from hearing the crew members’ real-life experiences added meaningful value to our project.

Aligning personal values like responsibility, patience, and connection with professional growth enriched my experience. Balancing my internship and personal time renewed my enthusiasm and energy, contributing to both well-being and productivity. This internship has given me a solid foundation for my future aspirations in computer science and digital arts. The knowledge gained, coupled with a deeper appreciation for collaboration and values alignment, will guide my endeavors in the ever-evolving landscape of VR development. Inspired by the Viking ship project, I look forward to exploring new avenues in this field.