VR sensory prototyping
VR video prototyping
One week course exploring
Immersive experiences, and
working with Mixed Reality
The Other Side is an afterlife VR experience to experience an intimate memory of your loved ones. Instead of cold tombstones or impersonal cemetery plots, we provide an immersive VR experience in which visitors can feel presence and peace. Participants put on a VR headset and go on a multi-sensory walk with a deceased loved one.
Behind the scenes where we created a variety of sensory experiences
We wanted to rethink cemetery visits as an immersive VR experience. We were asked to use virtual reality and augmented reality to create an immersive experience. We chose to explore the space of cemeteries. In our initial ideation phase, we explor-ed how we might create meaning-ful interactions between visitors and the deceased. Modern cemeteries and grave-yards have static and uni-directional interactions between the visitors and the deceased. What if we can use VR to create an engaging and immersive experience for the visitor?
Using smoke and scent to help immersive the participant
(and a lot of curious onlookers)
Monitoring the VR experience
Participant experiencing the presence of a loved one sitting next to them on a beach
We got our hands dirty and made lots of lo-fi prototypes. Since there are no pre-existing modes of interaction with VR and AR, we opted to learn from lo-fidelity prototypes. Initially, we were inspired by the idea of walking together in silence. For our first prototype, we shot a 360 video of me walking. When you watch this video in VR, it feels as if you are walking beside me.
This early prototype led to a major serendipitous discovery. As we were showing one of our early prototypes of a VR experience walking next to someone in virtual reality, a classmate shouted that someone should hold the hand of the participant in the headset. As a joke, I grabbed the participant’s hand. This small physical gesture increased the realism of the experience so much that the participant exclaimed, “This is insane!!!”.
A serendipitous discovery that informed the design of the final experience
Having someone hold your hand while in VR is a really trippy experience
This small discovery became a foundational part of the final experience. Similar to folly artists, we began our own senses “folly” prototypes where we mimic everything that is happening in the VR world in the real world. First, we used a heat lamp to see if we can mimic the feeling of touch. Then, we asked our participants to walk in a sandbox that mimicked a beach environment. We even introduced wafts of scent as a person approaches the participant in VR. These small lo-fi prototypes informed the foundational parts of the final experience.
Adding pressure to the seat to create the feeling of something sitting down
Using a heat lamp to create a sense of touch
Fanning the participant to create a feeling of wind
We created a holistic service by making a fake company with fictional marketing materials. Bora acted as the receptionist who guided the participants through an orientation and meditation session before the VR experience. In VR, the participant is transported to a beach where they wait for a deceased loved one to appear. To immerse the participant in a beach environment, we set up heat lamps, fans, and scents to mimic the feeling of being on a beach. The participant waits for their loved one to appear. Their loved one will walk toward the participant and bring his/her a rock on the beach. At this point, we drop the same rock in the participant’s hand. Then the participant’s loved one invites them for a meditative walk. In the real world, one of us mirrors the actions of the VR video and holds the hand of the participant while walking in the sandbox.
Using sand, wind, and heat to create a beach feeling
Dropping a stone into the participant's hand
Brochures as a part of our fake company to onboard participants
Sandbox to create the walking on a beach
My biggest learning from this project was my impact on people as a designer. The Other Side deals with the sensitive topic of death. I went into the project without realizing the emotional impact our project could have on our participants. However, after a few of our participants exited the experience in tears, we started to realize our power and responsibilities as designers. I realized that the things that I design have a real and lasting impact on people’s lives.
Many participants consider this experience to be peaceful and rewarding. One participant told us that this was the first VR experience that made him think about his father. If I were to do this project again, I would design an exit experience that would give participants the space to reflect.
Shooting the 360 video on a windy day at the beach
A nearby dock that we thought looks like The Other Side