Evaluative Research

Week Nine and Ten: 3/13–3/26


To quickly recap, our team is exploring the future of mixed reality, specifically how we might leverage the medium to better connect family members that are living apart.

How might we help families stay close even when they’re far apart?

After conducting a series of exploratory interviews and a generative workshop, we decided to focus on the parent-child relationship due to the level of interdependence we observed between children of the millennial generation and their parents. Although we ultimately imagine our solution being for other families as well (siblings, aunts and uncles etc.) investigating the parent-child relationship has become our tip of the spear strategy to understanding how families communicate.

Speed Dating

Following our exploratory and generative research phases, our team generated four concepts that we shared with Microsoft during our last presentation. Over the last week, we expanded upon our four initial concepts and planned a series of speed dating exercises with our different stakeholder groups. As I learned this week, a speed dating exercise is when you put concepts in front of stakeholders to get reactions.

We also created more thought-provoking variations of the original four concepts to help us test our solutions in different contexts and to better understand the social boundaries of each our participants (e.g. where is the boundary between intimacy and invasion of privacy?). Our plan is to speak with two adult children, one middle aged parent and two older parents with grandchildren.

The Mixed Reality Cafe

Concept Description: In this concept, we wanted to ways to create a greater sense of shared physical presence. In this scenario a brother enter a cafe in New York and the sister visits a cafe in Hong Kong. The cafes are physically indistinguishable — same chairs, tables, counter, food options, etc. The siblings can interact in this space and although they are thousands of miles apart, there’s the perception that they’re in the same physical space.

Concept Variations: We tested how people reacted to the concept in different settings (bar, restaurant, retail store etc.) and in different contexts from a casual conversation over coffee to the celebration of a major life event.

The Mixed Reality Cafe

Dropping In

Concept Description: In this concept we wanted to explore the idea of bonding around passive activities. Many of the people we interviewed said that they missed the mundane activities that they associate with being at home like watching movies and engaging in spontaneous conversation. Here we explored the idea of being able to “drop in” and out of a family dinner.

Concept Variations: We storyboarded this concept in a variety of settings — including public and private spaces and while engaging in more active and passive activities. Some variations included watching tv at home, showing up at the office, having a meal at a restaurant and visiting someone at a hospital.

Dropping In

Passive Connections

Concept Description: In this concept, we wanted to continue to ideate around the idea of “physical presence.” But this time, we wanted to explore more passive interactions by allowing family members to remotely influence one another’s physical spaces in subtle ways. Here we have a grandmother tending to her garden. She hears music which cues that her grandchildren are playing in their yard. She in turn begins to water her flowers which triggers the sprinkler system in her grandchildren’s backyard.

Concept Variations: We tested a variety of scenarios that ranged from more passive interactions, where a lighting system could notify remote family members that they were both in their respective kitchens, to more invasive scenarios where family members could actually manipulate one another’s environment (e.g. adjusting the lighting and temperature of your bedroom when you’re sick).

Passive Connections

The Virtual Care Package

Concept Description: Here we wanted to explore ideas around asynchronous communication and we wondered if there were better ways for sharing our experiences or even objects or gifts with remote family members. The “package” could contain video clips of fun things that we did throughout the day or virtual goods or games that could be enjoyed together later.

Concept Variations: We tested how people reacted to different levels of immersion, from experiences enabled through 2D mediums like photo and video to fully immersive 360 degree experiences. We also explored if the tangibility of the box/container added to the experience.

The Virtual Care Package

Our next steps will include hosting the speed dating exercises and synthesizing the feedback we receive from our all participants. With their insights, our hope is to select a single concept to flesh out further and to begin prototyping.

All of the concept variations can be found here.