Bucknell 2100: Design for Another World
In order to design for another world, our team wanted to take a spin on virtual reality and think about what the world as we know it will look like in the future. Specifically, we wanted to consider what it was like for computation to transport users to another place. With a very broad objective, the question of what place comes to mind. Places could include among paintings, inside a game, in the future, a different location one has never been to, etc. There was so much to consider. Eventually after talking out all our ideas together as a group, we settled on a futuristic Bucknell. The objective of our futuristic design for Bucknell was to invoke nostalgia yet provoke a sense of awe from technological advancements. What parts of Bucknell would people feel nostalgic about? What do people consider to be technological advancements? Answering these questions will be vital to accomplish the objective of our futuristic Bucknell.
Our first round of testing began with interviews with our classmates. While we had some ideas of what we thought Bucknell would look like in 2100, we wanted to hear what our classmates thought, and determine whether our idea for what we thought the future may be like was similar to that of the rest of our classmates. Therefore, using a Google Form, we sent out an anonymous survey asking our classmates what they think you would see and hear at Bucknell in the future, and other places they’d be curious about. The goal of our design again is to provoke awe yet nostalgia at the same time. If what we designed did not inspire these feelings, then we didn’t do our job right. The best way to figure out how we can spark these feelings is to ask our target audience what they want!
We received a variety of responses from the students, and learned that our classmates have quite the imaginations. Responses ranged from anything between annexes on the Bertrand Library, holographic professors, giant mechanical trees with large interactive screens, a drunk college student on the quad as usual, wind turbines in the distance, flying cars over Bucknell, and so much more. With information about what our intended audience interpreted a futuristic Bucknell, we could finally start the implementation. Using the survey information, we decided to design our other world as the quad at Bucknell. We felt that is is an iconic location, and hope to think that even in 1000 years things will still look similar and evoke the same nostalgia we feel when we see the quad today. Some of the common themes among survey responses were the presence of flying cars over the Quad, holographic screens, drones to take care of the lawn and solar panels on the buildings.
We are designing for virtual reality so understanding current practice is important for accomplishing our design objectives. We took some time to read Jonathan Ravasz’s medium post, “Design Practices in Virtual Reality,” to understand what factors we needed to consider. Using what we learned from his post, we began our design. One of the reasons we decided to select the Quad as our setting is because of the “role of the ground.” Ravasz explained how important it is to make sure the user sees the ground and sky at all times or it can cause motion sickness. Thus the “ground to horizon relationship is as important in VR as in our physical reality” (Ravasz). The Quad avoids this issue. Another factor to consider is the atmosphere. According to Ravaz, “atmospheric (aerial) perspective can help users understand the scale of the virtual environment, therefore making the experience more natural”. This was another factor on why we considered the Quad. It has the atmospheric factor considered to make our environment seem more natural. This directly helps the objective of our design since we wanted our users to feel nostalgic which wouldn’t be quite possible if an unnatural experience impedes this. With these factors in mind, we went out and built our first futuristic Bucknell Model.
Even though we had a primitive model, we went out and asked users to test it out. The students did respond that they did not feel motion sickness and felt natural to be in this environment. So the factors we had in mind about the role of the ground and the atmosphere did it’s job. The objective again of our world is to trigger memories and amazement. Users that do not feel motion sickness and feel that the world is natural contributes to our objective.
One piece of feedback we received was to add music. So we took Bucknell’s Alma Mater and remixed it to give it a spacey-music vibe and give a futuristic yet nostalgic feeling. Another useful idea we got from our initial user testing was adding rain into our world! The Bucknell scene we used was already a bit dark and cloudy. Adding rain would make the environment more ominous and bittersweet, calling back to classic sci-fi films like Blade Runner that depict the future in this fashion. After our initial user testing, we made drastic changes to our current version to reflect the user feedback.
Development Pro’s & Con’s
Our users didn’t feel motion sickness from the world, they understood the environment and like the novelty of the idea. It seemed like the users were able to feel what our world was suppose to provoke. A feeling of nostalgia but awe at the same time.
One complication we ended up with was that we were unable to get any 3D models into our design. Originally we had planned to have models of cars flying around, and solar panels lying across the roof of Coleman and Vaughn Literature buildings, but whenever we included the models it seemed that the page would completely freeze within a minute, stopping anyone from being able to see the cars flying around. As a substitute, the flying cars were modeled as blue blocks that would make this feature feasible, while still giving the general idea of what they were trying to accomplish. The holographic images don’t look as natural, but again that is due to technology limitations.
In the future, we would have liked to implement the 3D models, as we think they add a real flair and great layer to our project although as we are new at developing with A-frame models we were unable to complete this within the given time frame. Finally, one thing we did notice was that on mobile when using the Google Cardboard for testing, we noticed that it is not capable of playing the rain. Therefore, at the moment the best way to become immersed in the virtual reality world of Bucknell in 2100 is on your laptop.
Overall, working towards a goal to bring users to another world using virtual reality technology was a great experience. We were able to successfully reach our goal of immersing our user at Bucknell in the future and helping make something we are familiar with become the unknown and unfamiliar, and other worldly through the use of virtual reality.
Click here to see how we did this project