HOME OF is a VR museum of homes that connects the living environments of different cultures across time.

HOME OF is a VR museum of homes which connects the living environments of different cultures across time. It exhibits objects in full context, allows users to curate their own exploration, and shows how objects can be related to others in a variety of ways. 

Context

CMU IxD Studio I, 6 weeks

Context  |  CMU MDes  Fall 2018  IxD Studio I  6 weeks (Sep 10th ~ Oct 17th)

Team

Anukriti Kedia, Emma Zelenko, Khushi Shah

Team  |  Anukriti Kedia, Emma Zelenko, Khushi Shah

Role

Research, Concept Development, Prototyping(3D & 2D), Interaction Design

Role  |  research, ideation, prototype(3D, interface, audio, editing), interaction design

Tools

Sketch, InVision, Cinema 4D, Rhino 3D, AfterEffects, Illustrator

Brief

Improve the museum experience using VR

"VR has value for us as an interpretation tool... It's a way of conveying a feeling, helping people feel a connection with an artist. It's a different way of absorbing that information, and it makes the artist a living person."

- Hilary Knight, head of digital content at Tate

Today, many museums are facing the challenge of transitioning from rigid institutions to experiential and flexible spaces. 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.

In this project, we were tasked to develop an engaging, social and immersive virtual reality museum experience.

Design Process

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Exploratory Research

On-site Observation

We visited the Carnegie Museum of Art and of Natural History, observing how their artifacts were presented, how information is given, and how people are navigated around the exhibits.

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The museum experience is often passive- just looking at objects from a distance instead of interacting with the objects or other people. 

One exhibit begins with a discussion on how globalization influenced culture in Europe between 1500 to 1800. This nicely ties in historical context to the art. However, this story did not continue throughout the exhibit and no discussion of globalization within individual pieces.

The Hall of Architecture was one of the most exciting exhibits. Because they were so large you could walk below them and feel as though you were actually in the environment where these buildings existed.

Expert Interview

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We talked with Becca, the head of exhibition content and gallery implementation, about how they are incorporating technology into their museum. They haven’t decided yet if VR is appropriate for their museum because it can be isolating and people often visit the museum as a family as a way to interact with each other. However, they will be incorporating AR into a wildlife diorama to show how the animals moved.

Platform Affordances & Competitive Analysis

Alongside the museum research, we began experimenting with the Oculus Go headset. We started researching interaction paradigms in VR by examining relevant experiences in many different contexts: games, interactive movies, and existing museum exhibits, learning applications and information visualizations.

Problem Framing

What's currently missing from the museum experience?

01. MISSING CONTEXT

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.

02. PASSIVE ENGAGEMENT

Museums typically require passive engagement where you can simply look at objects, not touch or interact with them. Background information is typically displayed in dry, static text.

03. INFORMATION OVERLOAD

The amount of information provided can be too overwhelming, irrelevant to what you are interested in, or easy to ignore. Even when information is read it is unclear what you should do with this information.

04. MISSING BIGGER PICTURE

It is unclear how objects within an exhibit relate to each other. What are the connection and the message visitors should take away?

Ideation

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Concept Development

VR Museum of Homes

MUSEUM OF HOMES

It exhibits objects in full context, allows users to curate their own exploration, and shows how objects can be related to others in a variety of ways;

HOME OF is a VR museum of homes which connects the living environments of different cultures across time. It exhibits objects in full context, allows users to curate their own exploration, and shows how objects can be related to others in a variety of ways. 

1. Provide an immersive context around an artifact
2. Allow audiences to curate own non-linear exploration

3. Disclose information progressively to ease overload

4. Provide unexpected connections between artifacts

1. PROVIDE THE BIGGER CONTEXT
2. SHOW HOW OBJECTS RELATE TO ONE ANOTHER
3. ALLOW FOR FREE EXPLORATION
4. PROVIDE A DIFFERENT EXPERIENCE EVERY TIME

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We made a storyboard for our service. We tried to consider not only how the VR space experience should be designed, but also how we could provide values to even reality and then attract users to enter our service again. 

Design & Prototyping

Spherical Perspective

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Since there are applications such as Adobe AfterEffects or GoPro VR Player that can convert this spherical perspective into 3D environments, it could be a quick way to prototype. It was so interesting that we could build 3D space so easily with just a piece of a sketch. However, we thought that this method is not enough to make a high-fidelity prototype. 

3D Space in AfterEffects

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AfterEffects required using images with a spherical perspective. Since none of us knew how to draw in this perspective we found images of homes and traced their general shape then added textures and objects in Photoshop. We then imported these into AfterEffects. However, we found After Effects to be much more frustrating than we first imagined. Many of the images became distorted when we tried to move perspective. For the high-quality prototype, we should think of other ways.

3D SPACE in Cinema 4D

3D SPACE in Cinema 4D

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We made 3D modeling in the Rhino 3D program and then imported obj files in the Cinema 4D. Also, we could find existing free 3D modelings from libraries for most objects within the room. After that, we mapped a texture onto objects. It took a long time to find suitable texture images for each material and then manipulate them to fit the shape of objects.

2D Interface & Branding

While we did not find After Effects to be appropriate for creating our 3D spaces it was the best tool for creating our interfaces. We used it for our navigations scenes as well as for adding text and cursors onto the Cinema 4D content. These are the very first version we designed.

We could get several feedbacks from professors and our cohorts.

The first thing was about the color and shape of the cursor. We designed it as a green circular shape in order to emphasize. However, the light green color took too much attention so that it could bother users' exploration. We should re-design them with better color and shape.

Also, we decided to remove unnecessary elements such as the lined corner box which appears when the country is selected. This is because even though those elements could make our design looks cool, they could also make our design unclean and unreasonable.

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While refining them again and again, we also focused on establishing our visual language. Basically, we selected our brand color as a yellow(#F7DC50), since the bright yellow color matches well with light and dark gray backgrounds. Also, it can be easily caught by eyes so that we could induce our users to focus on important information on the screen.

Layering 2D on 3D

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The hardest part was to match the sync of the camera and objects movement with all other elements such as narration and interface movements. I had to calculate and consider all time frames and considerately reflect on the camera movement. 

Mobile App

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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. However, we also acknowledged that there was a 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. This app would also allow users to easily view any objects that were favorited in the VR experience.

Controller Interaction

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The VR gear that we focused on is OCULUS GO. The controller of OCULUS GO is able to detect the direction, but not the position of itself. 

There are options to go back. Using the back button, users can go to the previous space whenever they want. Also, the home button allows users to be transported to the MAP space.

Hovering

Not to distract users, we removed the cursor as a default. When they push the button of the controller, the cursor appears.

Users can interact with objects by hovering the cursor. In order to provide a sense of exploration, we removed other visual signs (such as light) that shows whether the hovered object is interactive or not. Only interactive objects move in a certain way when hovered.

Clicking

By releasing the button, users can click or select. 

Walking Around

By controlling the circular button on the upper part of the controller, users can walk around the virtual home and explore the space.

Final Design & Experience Flow

1. Put on VR Headset

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The experience begins with putting on the VR headset. We did not define our user group by specific ages or gender. Instead, we defined our users by characters: who are interested in learning about people and cultures, who like to explore through multiple perspectives and stimulations, who want to explore freely instead of following the curated path by museums.

2. Map: Select a Location for Exploration

Users select a location that they want to explore. When users click a country, photos of various and unique homes are provided.

3. Home I: Learn Artifacts in Full Context

Users learn history, culture, and people related to that location in that context. They can look around the space and learn with a feeling of reality.

4. Transition: from Home to World Of Connections

Users can interact with artifacts and learn more about them in detail. If users select the connection button, they are transported to a WORLD OF CONNECTIONS space.

5. World of Connections

This space shows how a selected object can be seen in different lenses. Users can change a connection and explore multiple relationships with other objects. If users select one of them, they are transported to the context of the selected object.

6. Home II: The Context of The Selected Object

Users can keep exploring transporting from one place to another.

7. After VR Experience

Users can save and collect objects whenever they want. Collected objects can be reviewed further through the application. We add this feature because of the limits of VR. People are not familiar with VR space and if they spend much time on VR, we thought they might feel stressful. Also, a smartphone has fewer space limitations compared to VR. Thus, we thought the app shortcut feature could supplement the VR experience. 

Reflection

Overall, we got a great reaction from our cohorts and Becca, the head of exhibition content and gallery implementation of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in the final presentation. Also, we all were satisfied with our results and outputs.

While working on this project, we realized that a VR experience cannot replace a physical museum experience. Since physical museums are is made of real, tangible and sensorial experiences. However, it can supplement it in multiple ways; housing a larger collection from many museums, organizing content in multiple ways, visualizing spaces that are hard to create physically, and enabling an experience that may not exist in reality.

For more information about the process, please refer to medium documentation.

Copyright 2019 Jaeyeon Huh. All rights reserved. 

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