VR Home explores the extensions of the home into location-based VR, as single user experiences. We built and iterated on 4 room prototypes for the HTC Vive and held playtesting and interview sessions to inform design and development.
Our research findings were presented to Verizon and the project approved for continuation into the Fall semester.
ROLE: HCI Research Assistant, Designer, Lead Concept/3D Artist
DURATION: 4 months | Summer 2018
ADVISORS: Jessica Hammer, Tom Corbett, Lauren Herckis
TEAM: Jessica Cao, Jacqui Fashimpaur, Anna Henson, Adela Kapuścińska, Kai Kuehner, Rachel Rodgers, Jeena Yin, Sabrina Zhai.
00 — CONTRIBUTIONS
As VR Prototyper/Designer, I devised the design and research goals for the project: ideating, building and regularly iterating on created rooms. I introduced narrative goals to the project: specifically, I devised the narrative interactions in the Greenhouse. Additionally, I supported our research team by conducting playtesting sessions and interviews, and transcripting the recordings
As Lead Concept/3D Artist, I decided on the art direction for the project. I created concept art to illustrate our designs for client check-ins and led the production of 3D assets. Specifically, I coordinated in-house and contract work for 3D assets.
01 — PROJECT GOALS
To develop a comprehensive set of theories through select literature on the home.
To explore emergent design theories in location-based VR room prototypes.
To develop and playtest said prototypes with a range of first-time and experienced VR users.
To interview playtesters about the meaning of home (as single user experiences), between and outside of our prototypes.
02 — RESEARCH
We first sat down to go over select literature on the home to understand the domain within which we were working. We explored the meaning of home through a variety of disciplines: anthropology, architecture, sociology, psychology, economics, political science and the arts. We delved into specific aspects of the experience of the home - spaces, activities, and relationships - as a means of informing our ideation phase.
We complemented readings on the home with ones on virtual reality and physical spaces:
We broke down these readings into key insights, consolidated them into themes of home and generated a list of research questions, specifically in the context of designing for VR home spaces.
Some interesting questions included:
How can we incorporate rituals or seasonal cycles into our space?
What objects do we identify with? Can we identify with virtual representations of objects? Do people relate to their stuff? And how much is customization important?
What are some more abstract representation of the home that still meet the requirement of the home?
Can we allow for changing the spaces over time, and the changes of the individual (aspirations, future plans)?
Revisiting spaces and forming attachment to them over time, being part of the creation process of the space/doing labor in the space (includes influencing the space)? Would want to see people over and over again?
Can we build VR environments that capture the sense of the hearth (local, cozy, familiar)?
Homes are also places of social connection. By placing other “people” within the VR space can we create that sense of having others around you? playing/placing related sounds/objects to the individual (familiar sounds)
Sharing spaces is important to the idea of home. Can we find ways to share our VR spaces? Or use them simultaneously in a physical space?
Through this process, we were not only able to define our own interests into the definition of “home” but also identify emerging strategies for design.
03 — IDEATION
Our research was essential to identifying user needs and interests in the VR Home: as a (plausible) escape, an extension of (a permanent) home, a recontextualized living space (one that you already inhabit), an adaptable “smart” space (changing with your aspirations and needs). The notion of the “hearth” was crucial in our process. We specified users of two demographics: 18-25 years (“transients”, needing the hearth) and 25-45 years (developing or having the hearth). Finally, arranging for user research and playtesting groups was made all the easier, given we were based in close proximity to a large student population.
We began by generating a list of 100+ rooms that could be a part of the home. To distinguish the nature of these rooms, we cross-listed them with our themes of “home” and ranked them according to their promise and scope. Our goal was to test a variety of theories through our prototypes, so we strived for as diverse a group to select from.
Over the course of the summer, we developed 4 room prototypes. Every next prototype - its successes, promises, challenges and implications - helped us redefine our research goals and develop interactions best suited to test out our specific inquiries. This was aided by a parallel process of interviews and playtesting sessions with the Pittsburgh population.
04 — CONCEPT, PROTOTYPING AND DEVELOPMENT
1. MEDITATION — a study on comfort
2. COLLECTION — a study on personalization and curation
3. GREENHOUSE — a study on continuity and co-presence
4. HEARTH — a study on continuity and co-presence
05 — PROJECT WRAP-UP
A research paper is in production regarding the Summer iteration of VR Home. Look out for updates!
Our findings paved the way to the Fall iteration of the project at the Entertainment Technology Center, which explored multi-user VR home experiences. Information on this can be found here: Abode.