The way we learn and digest information is changing. ‘Edutainment’ has arrived and virtual reality is emerging as a key medium for learning.For most of us, digesting and interpreting data is challenging. Studies show that virtual reality can assist us in learning faster and the idea of bringing data to life using clever design and storytelling is a compelling one. 

 

So we decided to test it out.


With support from the General Manager of Education at Microsoft, Dan Ayoub, our collective came together to make use of the new Microsoft Mixed Reality Headsets and bring elements and data from The Value of Design into a virtual reality experience.


With a goal of delivering this VR experience at Creative Realities on the 24th of May 2018, our collaborative team started the creative process in March and includes Massey University staff and students, Designworks and Mixt.

 

 

We wanted our experience to be playful, interactive and informative. One of the key objectives was for our audience to walk away with an understanding of some of the data and the impact that design has on our economy. Making use of the key features of the Microsoft Mixed Reality Headset, including the ability to interact with the content, we set about building our story.

 

We had data that was impactful on paper so we knew that it would be even more impressive when brought to life in a VR experience. Oscar Keys, a Massey student and one of our experience designers, said: “VR shines when it enables the impossible, therefore the biggest design challenge became how to interpret data for this massive and exciting new medium.”

 

Teamed with case studies centred on Allbirds and Good Nature we worked towards demonstrating how a design-led approach contributes to a company’s success. With only four weeks to build the experience out in Unity our student development team were seriously under pressure. And of course, there were the unknown challenges thrown into the mix, like creating a 3D model of an Allbirds shoe, which involved a pristine pair of Wool Runners, a few hundred photos (aka photogrammetry) and a lot of uploading time!

 

Creating another key element of the experience was sound designer and Massey student Mitchell Kirk who had to compose sounds that would complement and enhance the visual expression of the data. Mindful of the fact that the sound would be experienced through headphones, he composed ambient material as well as cues to prompt user interaction.

 

Many of the collaborating parties were working with unfamiliar technology and really had to relook at the process of design and tailor it to the VR medium. For the Massey students, they were also getting a glimpse of what their own futures may hold. James Weeks, an experience designer, said: “This project has been fascinating as it was my first look into the industry. It's really exciting to know that these sorts of opportunities exist for Massey students. I have enjoyed being a part of a large scale, real-life project as opposed to hypothetical uni projects.”

 

As the final adjustments were made to the experience, the mood of the virtual environment was established, the interactive journey became more streamlined and the weight of the data became clear.

 

Our anticipated outcomes

We expected this project to:

— be a learning process for all parties involved, where established research could be visualized in virtual reality using clever experience design;

— encourage further investment into virtual and augmented reality educational programs in New Zealand;

— generate high engagement and feedback from audience members at the Creative Realities conference;

— prompt investment into design from New Zealand companies;

— produce a great case study showing the power of edutainment!

 

 

What’s next?

This experience was an experiment to see how people interacted with data in a virtual environment and what learnings they walked away with. By showcasing this at Creative Realities we can capture user feedback and provide more insight into how this technology can be used as a valuable learning tool. 

 

Our team

Gemma Hoskins — Project Manager

Designworks
Kate Mathews, Account Director
Nick Hughes — Technical Director
Tasmin Fraser — Designer

 

Massey University
Anna Brown — Director, Partnership and Projects, College of Creative Arts, 
Brian Lucid — Head of School of Design, College of Creative Arts
James Weeks — Experience designer, School of Design
Mitchel Kirk — Sound designer, School of Music
Oscar Keys — Experience designer, School of Design
Radek Rudnicki — Lecturer and Major Coordinator of Music Practice

 

Mixt
Jessica Manins — Producer, CEO Mixt
Mauricio Hernandez — Intern, Mixt
Ryan Sumner — Unity Developer, Mixt
Taylor Carrasco — CTO, Mixt