VIRTUAL REALITY | INTERACTION DESIGN | EXPERIENCE DESIGN
Home of, is a virtual reality museum experience which connects the living environments of different cultures across time.
Team: Jay Huh, Khushi Shah, Emma Zelenko
Role: Research, Concept Development, Interaction Design, Visual Design
Tools: Cinema4D, Adobe AfterEffects, Adobe Illustrator, Sketch
Duration: 6 weeks | Carnegie Mellon University, School of Design
To develop an engaging, social and immersive virtual reality museum experience, that allows museums to transition from rigid institutions to experiential and flexible spaces.
Today, many museums are also facing the challenge of This is driven by such factors as expanding collections, increased competition for visitors, and visitor expectations for greater engagement. Over the past few years, a number of institutions have experimented with virtual reality in a variety of exhibition settings.
A museum of homes, which exhibits objects in context of their use, importance and space. It allows users to curate their own exploration, and shows how objects can be related to others in a variety of ways.
Our research began at Carnegie Museum of Art and the Museum of Natural History, where we explored the exhibits and noticed people moving around in the galleries. We also got the opportunity to speak to Rebecca Shreckengast, Director of Exhibition Experience at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, who provided us great insights into the use of technology in museums. Further, my personal work with creating learning experiences for museums and cultural institutions in the past, and realizing the role of museum education were to key to build a quick understanding for all of us on the team.
As a team through the process of affinity mapping we found four key problems that defined most of our museums experiences. These problems became our main point of investigation:
Artifacts are often shown by themselves instead of in the environments they existed in. Even the descriptions of the artifacts don’t explain the cultural significance of the artifact.
Referred to as the state of physical and mental fatigue, we found most museum experiences to be overwhelming by the sheer amount of objects to be seen and explored. The information provided can be overwhelming, irrelevant to your interest, or easy to ignore.
Museums typically require passive engagement where you can simply look at objects— not touch them nor interact with them and experience them in a way that the curator deems fit. This takes away opportunities of building on an active user-led experience.
Missing Bigger picture:
While museums focus on explaining the individual inheritance of the object, it is unclear how objects within an exhibit relate to each other. We found ourselves concerned with the questions of what is the connection between these objects?
Objects don’t exist in isolation, they are a part of a greater whole, connected by a shared understanding of people, places, time and culture.
Our problem statement condensed to question of:
How can we better leverage VR and data in order to build on a unique, non-linear, immersive and contextual museum experience that brings together individual stories into a bigger whole?
With our research and insight in mind, we built on a list of design objectives which would define our experience.
Build an immersive context around artifacts
Build on an active user with a self-exploratory approach
Allow for discovery of unexpected connections between artifacts
Design an informational yet engaging experience.
Make for a service which is not limited to a one time VR experience.
Rooting our thought in our design objectives, for our final concept we bought together a mix of two ideas of exploring a museum of homes and a world of connections.
We created two key iterations, one that explored a home based environment, and one slightly abstract which built on new ways of navigating through museum artifacts. Each concept had its own compelling aspects and drawbacks- the museum of homes made use of the virtual space but did not have a way to sort through large amounts of data while the world of connections had an interesting way to parse through information but did not make use of a 3D environment.
We felt that combining both ideas would best reach all of our goals and we envisioned our experience as a tour of homes in which you could be transported out of the home to the ‘world of connections’ to explore how individual artifacts related to other artifacts of different times and locations.
Before building our environment we took time to think how the user would move through the home and ‘world of connections’ making sure the ‘world of connections’ would appear at logical times that would not overwhelm the user and yet provide a unique way to navigate which was user-led. We also chose to limit each home to one room both to ease any difficulties of moving via the VR controller and to limit the number of decisions the user needs to make when exploring a home.
Homes provide an apt setup that weave together the lives of different communities in their living environments, that allow one to explore how they lived in context to a particular space and time, manifested through their artifacts of use. These artifacts can’t be categorized into different sub-types, but rather are a culmination of arts, tools, textiles, products and other designs.
We chose to specifically explore the homes of indigenous communities that stood apart from a common westerner’s idea of homes. The homes also allowed us to create engaging experiences that could utilize the 3D space of VR.
New Ways of Navigating:
World of Connections
The world of connections acted as an interesting navigation point that was built as a solution to the problems of presenting large amounts of data in ways that could be easy to observe and engaging to comprehend. Leveraging the meta-data of artifacts, the space allowed the user to visit an artifact through unique lenses, connecting the same artifact to many others across the world, in different countries and in different homes.
The world of connections allowed us to build further on our insight that shifted focus from a singular perspective of an object to a more cohesive, connected and exciting one.
Interface and Interactions:
As interaction designers we considered the role of interactions and interfaces to bring the museum experience in VR to life. Having the opportunity to explore a completely new medium and design material, we were able to push some boundaries of navigation and transitions.
Extending the experience to a Mobile App :
In our VR concept, we determined that we only wanted to show a limited number of objects for each connection so as not to overwhelm the user. This was driven both my the decision of not building further on museum fatigue but also by the ideal amount of time suggested for a VR experience, which is for about 15 minutes. However, we also acknowledged that there was benefit in being able to view all objects that match a particular connection. We felt the best way to address this was to create an accompanying mobile app as an extension of the VR experience. This app would also allow users to easily view any objects that were favorited by them in the VR experience, and explore it further through easy to access information and connections.