Introduction to Blueprints
Unreal Engine 4 (UE4) is a state of the art game engine which can be used to create different types of game. It can be programmed using C++ or Blueprints.
Blueprints are virtual nodes which use drag and drop to position and are then connected using virtual wires. Blueprints make it much easier to program in Unreal Engine 4 because you don’t need to write code. By using a 3d printer these nodes can be made physical and logic networks can be produced. These networks are then copied back into UE4 and run.
This images shows a two node blueprint - each node performs one action and has input connectors on the left and output connectors on the right. Each of these nodes are then connected by virtual wires.
In this case, blueprint Node T represents letter T which means that when the user presses letter T, it prints the message which was inside the Print String blueprint node, “Say hello to my little friend” on the screen during the game play.
Images of Unreal Engine Nodes.
This is how the Blueprint nodes are logically connected together.
We have used a set of Python scripts to copy data from the Unreal Engine 4 Blueprint Editor's Clipboard and convert it into the normalised format.
This normalised format can then be printed using one of the Blueprint OpenScad templates by converting normalized model data into STL files which can then be printed using the 3D printer.
Also, PyQRCode has been used which is a QR code generator that is simple to use and written in pure python. The module can automate most of the building process for creating QR codes. Most codes can be created using only two lines of code!
Different size blank nodes can be created which can then be altered manually to add any text the user would like. This is because it saves time, resources and allows you to start working quickly with 3D printed nodes.
How visually impaired users can do programming using 3D printed nodes?
Visually impaired can 3D print an assortment of nodes, each with different input/output nodes available with the help of a learning assistant. Once the user selects a function he needs, the assistant can choose one of the pre-printed ‘blank’ nodes and make a braille label using the Dymo Braille machine.
The name of the node can then be added using a marker, so it is readable by the learning assistant. On the back of the node, the help page for the node can then be added as a QR code, so the user can research the node independently.
Once the nodes are connected using real wire connectors, the learning assistant can copy it to Unreal Engine 4. When it is run they both can see what happens, discuss the result and add/change nodes, as needed.