The Real Housewives of VR/AR: How I applied the UX process in VR/AR.

There’s nothing like a good deadline to hold you accountable on all those projects you have on the backburner. In this case, Katie and I attended a 3-day hackathon sponsored by AT&T that was designed to encourage designers/developers in creating products for the ARVR space. Aside from just experimenting in this space, we also saw the hackathon as a way to push ourselves on learning how to apply the UX process in the rapidly growing world of VR/AR. We were able to do some quick research with assumptions for time constraints, create user flows, wireframe, rapid prototype, and create both a working demo on the HTC Vive and a gateway AR companion app.

This is how we won 2nd place in a VR/AR hackathon sponsored by AT&T with limited technical skills learned over 2 days.

Going out with guns blazing for an AT&T AR/VR hackathon. SO. MANY. DEVICES.

The Challenge : Lack of VR/AR content geared for women demographic to help encourage mass appeal and acceptance.

Having explored only some of what the VR/AR world could offer, we noticed that most of the top games for VR were first-person shooters, room escape, puzzle games, and creative apps like Tilt Brush. There seemed to be a lack of content that would appeal to women to help encourage acceptance of this emerging tech. Granted that most of the barriers to entry revolve around price for equipment, limited information on accessibility of tech, and intimidation of setup/equipment for non-techie consumers, we wanted to rethink how we could encourage new consumers if those barriers were non-issue. As women ourselves, we wanted to create a fun product that would appeal to many across age, socioeconomic, and cultural groups.

Possible Solution: Allow users to live out their favorite moments from reality tv.

We decided to go with The Real Housewives franchise since it’s a reality tv show that appeals to different types of women(and men) and across various countries. (Who know there was a British, Australian, and Bangkok series as well?!) The unpredictable nature of the women from this show often resulted in viral memes that spread across the internet so there’s a fair chance most people are somewhat aware of this series. This led to research on some of the most popular moments such as table flipping by Teresa Giudice, general catty shouting, and wine throwing from various seasons.

The infamous table flip.

Persona: The Gateway Consumer

With a theme in mind, research was done on demographics of the show’s viewers and a few assumptions were made due to the short time frame. We settled on Reality Rena to help drive our design decisions for both the AR and VR prototypes.

Considerations & Concerns

After our initial research with assumptions down, we started creating user flows on a fun way to incorporate the Real Housewives franchise. One of the major considerations we had in mind was that these apps were not built to be mean or cruel to others but to bring the crazy antics of the RH into our daily lives. This meant we had to be extremely cautious of anything that could be misconstrued as cruel and politically incorrect. Granted that the Real Housewives are slightly crazy and uncensored, if we wanted to gain the attention of the female consumer, we had to make sure it was entertaining and not offensive.

Design Process: All The Crazy Ideas

With a theme in mind and basic research completed, we each started with creating user flows for each of the separate products. Katie was responsible for the VR prototype/demo and I concentrated on an AR companion app. Our reasoning for creating multiple products was simple: not all of the target demographic had access to VR equipment. If an AR app could pique interest in this technology and show how it could be fun, they would be more likely to seek out information on the VR product.

User flow for an AR MVP (Augmented Reality Minimum Viable Product)

I struggled a little bit with the user flow for the AR app. It felt incredibly messy since I had to consider the user’s interaction with the real world as well. I ended up having to draw simple wireframes to figure out what features needed to be in the app so the process was slightly backwards but worked for this scenario. This helped guide the user flow for the MVP.

UGH. So messy.

The importance of a prototype.

Although other teams created full-on working AR apps, I decided to approach this with a prototype instead because in the real world, a prototype could help judge the appeal of the app prior to development so that time, money, and effort could be saved through the testing process. This app could potentially be considered mean so instead of spending days on a fully coded app, a rapid prototype could be tested to gauge user interest and reactions.

The hardest part about creating this prototype was the hours spent learning how to create interactions inside of Principle. Since I was already familiar with Flinto and InVision for prototype, the Principle interface felt familiar but I had to get used to the timelines feature. Here is a video of the prototype I showed:

The VR Experience

The VR experience allowed users to enter a dining scene with Teresa Giudice and flip a set table and spray wine as needed. Based on previous experiences in VR where the user was unsure of controls inside the experience, Katie came up with the great idea to add artwork on the walls that would give the users cues on what to do. I ran with the idea and created the sprite artwork with a nod to the Housewife theme. It was super inspiring to watch Katie build and develop the whole experience in 1 day. Such a rockstar! Video coming soon.

Sprite artwork inside experience to help users with controls.

Murphy’s Law

“If something can go wrong, it will.”

1 hour prior to the demo presentation, the VR experience broke. Katie did an amazing job of staying calm and rebuilding the code that she had spent all night writing. I was able to help her trouble shoot some of the issues and together, we managed to get it working by the time the judges showed up. Crisis averted.

Future Iterations:

  1. New rooms with different scenarios to experience.
  2. Create your own housewife and ability to interact with players in High Fidelity.
  3. AR app could potentially sync up with the show to interact with in real-time.

What I learned:

  1. Challenge yourself and have fun. Aside from the pressure of having to deliver something, we made learning and designing with a new program in 1 day as our internal metric for success. For me, it was learning how to creatively prototype an AR app with Principle for Mac.
  2. Get better at file naming. I tend to fall into the messy-but-I-know-where-everything-is syndrome. This became a nightmare when I started prototyping my AR app with Principle. Literally made me want to cry 6 screens in but I got through it. Lesson to self — STICK TO A NAMING CONVENTION FOR EVERYTHING.
  3. Be confident. I started the weekend knowing NOTHING about using Principle for prototyping in AR and very little about developing in Unity/VR. By the end of the weekend, not only did I walk away with a prototype, I learned how to setup a HTC Vive system and created a few sprite artwork.
  4. Make time for Murphy’s Law. :)
  5. Stop doubting yourself. Your ideas are valid. As a team, Katie and I won 2nd place at the AT&T VR hackathon. We realized a problem existed and created a pitch and product duo that addressed it in a delightful way. Users who tried the experiences walked away laughing. Win!
Excited about our 2nd place win. Yay! #womenintech