4 Week Wrap Up

Framing the Project

Over the last four weeks, Tori and I have been working on a proof of concept utilizing VR and Motion Capture. The larger goal for our project is to form an educational VR experience that promotes the development of empathy in elementary school literature. We have chosen to examine this by developing an experience based on the story of Ruby Bridges, though for this four week prototype we focused our efforts on overcoming new technology and starting research.

Why is this a problem? 

Virtual reality has been rapidly developing in areas such as video games and medical research, but less work has been done in the areas of children, empathy, story, and how we can tie these factors into education. 

This creates a unique challenge for me as a designer. VR creates a new range of possibilities for interaction, especially when combined with game design concepts. Examining these interactions and their implications in the context of the story will be a large role for me in the development of this project, and something I began to do with the prototype. 


Above is a recap of my progress over the last four weeks. It includes a demonstration of each of the navigation, UI, and animation controls, as well as a sample scene created from the point of view as Ruby. 

My personal goals were to examine the interaction possibilities in VR, and learn to develop them for use in the Vive. I specifically worked with navigation, UI menus/panels, and controlling our animations using these menu assets. In terms of this prototype, I did not know how to do any of this in Unity using VRTK or SteamVR. I had to learn how the technology worked and explore those potential options in order to move forward. 

In the grand scheme of the project, these factors are very important in how the user experiences the scene and allows us to start asking questions about their impact. For example, if we limit a user's ability to navigate based on the role they're playing in the scene, how will that impact their impression of that role? If as Ruby the user has no control over their environment, will this convey the lack of control a six year old would experience? And if the user is able to navigate, is it less immersive to present them with a menu of tasks or create a more freeform navigation using the pointer and no text? Tori and I don't have answers to these questions yet as our research will help point us in the direction of the type of experience we will create. 

Above are the slides from our presentation in class.


We received great feedback over the last four weeks. Here are some of the thoughts given on our prototype.

  • Consider looking at Suzanne Keene, Dr. Bruce Perry, and Mary Jordan in your research.

    • Bruce gave us some great avenues to explore. Although I haven't gone too deep into their research yet, Keene does some interesting work with how multimedia setups can be used in a museum setting and Dr. Perry works with children's mental health and psychology. I need to speak with Bruce again about what work Mary Jordan does.

  • Drop back on your aesthetic choices for now. Focus on function, determine what you want the experience to be first.

    • In our next steps, I agree that the aesthetics are going to need to be considered but not fully developed until we know exactly what we want out of this project. Tori and I have discussed in the past the fine line we walk between making an impact and creating something that actually scares students. While it's certainly not a focus just yet, we know that we don't want the final experience to be too realistic in appearance but still authentic.

  • Can you cut this project back to a more accessible technology for the classroom?

    • A fair point. HTC Vives aren't cost-friendly and unlikely to be found in any public school environment. Google Cardboards have been implemented in classrooms already and are much more feasible on a large-scale consideration. I think we can absolutely adapt what we've learned on a smaller scale and create something cross-platform, we just have to adjust for different mechanical experiences and technological issues. A conversation for the upcoming phases.

  • More research on developmental psychology and learning theory.

    • Absolutely. It's already on the list of topics we're gathering media on. I'll also be taking a class next semester on learning and memory, which will hopefully be bringing me more materials and context for this project.

  • What are the qualities of VR that would enable empathy or learning? Work towards answering this.

    • This ties in with choosing more accessible technology. Something we'll be working on answering - or at least guessing at - in the next couple of weeks.

  • Write your next steps with your objectives in mind- exploring empathy and storyness. Start bringing context into your interactions.

    • I am already adjusting my next steps to bring the narrative and the concepts we've been researching into these design decisions (discussed below).

Next Steps

Thinking about the prototype and the feedback we got, I would like to move forward and use these tools to develop a full narrative prototype. For me, this means mapping out a narrative framework for the experience with a beginning, middle, and end. This will include a more developed environment, with a blocked in scene for the school, neighborhood, and general placement of props as they would be in the actual location. A beginning scene with the user as Ruby, experiencing her walk up to the schoolhouse. Protestors surrounding the sidewalk, including sound in the scene this time. Forcing the user to walk her path before being returned to the scene to navigate on their own. The final result would be a prototype of a vertical slice- not polished, not focused on visuals, but purely interaction and narrative. 

While still complex, this scene will not require learning as much technical skill as our four week proof of concept. Therefore I will be using that time to continue to catch up with research and focus on the design of the experience. This step feels like a good leap from our technical exploration to trying out what we learned in a narrative setting.