Designing for Not You

Carolyn Jao
Jul 15, 2015 · 7 min read

The post is from my point of view during the Timewave Virtual Reality Hacakthon. The views I express do not represent Verbal+Visual, Timewave or other members of TEAM WIIP. Special thanks to J Dakota Powell, Timewave, NYU-ITP and all the wonderful folks that put this together! You all rock!

Not you — by Team WIIP (@margajavier @madameEM @carolynjao @superpixelated @charlineJao @jeannekelly)

Before the Hackathon

So, as a UX Designer — I make apps and websites for a living. I attended the Protohack hackathon a few months ago designing for things I was very comfortable with. It was an amazing experience — it wasn’t about winning, but about being able to ‘play’ with technology outside of the usual constraints and really push the limits.

I signed up for another one. This time for something I was completely unfamiliar with — Virtual Reality. The theme this year was ‘Mythos and Moxie’

VR is not new, but exciting things are happening in the VR world. I figure the best way to learn and get my hands dirty would be to dive in nonstop for a weekend.

This is how I VR

During the Timewave festival hackathon they hosted a demo event at the Samsung studio. Freedom 360 did an excellent job of explaining to us the challenges and methods of filming Live Action VR. In my past life I worked as a film producer — so seeing the capabilities of Kolor, the rig set-up and some of the projects that Freedom 360 showed us really opened up my eyes —oh the possibilities!

There’s a number of 360 cameras already, but the quality of the the small GoPro cameras and a 6 camera rig made a huge difference (see here, or here)

“VR videos don’t make people sick, but poorly shot VR videos do.”

This is something important we had to remember — the horizon line was an important element to be mindful of. Stitching and cleaning up the videos was also a painstaking but crucial process for VR.

Following the demo there was a mega meet-up at the Samsung Studio, with speakers From NYU, LittlStar, Freedom360 and Samsung studio (See details here)

Our team decided that we NEED sleep and we would meet earlier on Saturday to flesh out ideas. In the mean time, we started brainstorming on

The Process

Marga, Charline, Erika and I met at THINK COFFEE at 8AM. The hackathon officially started at 9:30 but we wanted to get some ideas flowing before hand.

We wanted our product to be useful and serve a purpose. We started to really think about what problem VR could solve.

Picture by @madameEM
Picture by @timewavefest

We narrowed some ideas down to about 20 items being about to build empathy or preserve memories.

Well, we should probably narrow it down to one… for now though, we were just excited to have a direction.

At around 11AM we finalized it down to something we can really all relate to — The Myth of Pink and Blue.

We need more women in tech. There are many programs and groups aiming to bring in more women in tech. But something is missing.

We collectively thought about how as girls we are constantly hearing comments like, “You’re pretty strong for a girl,” and these words fly under the radar of people’s awareness. The process of changing must start at a much younger age.

These words have a negative impact to self-esteem and our role and identity within society. However small as a singular experience, over time with repeated exposure, they have far reaching and long lasting consequences, actually help to perpetuate the underlying issues.

This should remind us that the relationship between the sexes is not only about difference, but also about power. (Via the Guardian)

A team is born!

We decided to go with the name TEAM WIIP (Why is it pink?) its cheeky and perfect and I LOVE IT.

Our initial target demographic was going to be 13 year old boys. The goal was to encourage empathy for their peers.

We started looking for resources and came across an online game called Breakaway. The game addresses gender violence using the Sabido Methodology to connect with a younger audience. You play soccer with basic commands but the narrative goes much deeper than just that.

screenshots we gathered to analyze the game

Was gamifying the solution? With the limitations of Live Action VR we won’t be able to produce anything longer than around 3 minutes. Complicated questions started to form in our head — How do we test this? How do we develop a story? Was this really the solution? Why would they care about this product at all? Under what context would this be shown to them? Is this too vague? Will this be too difficult to set-up? How do we make this more accessible? How do we…

We were wrong.
We were targeting the wrong personas.

Our target really isn’t the 13 year olds, its the adults around them.

Some of us are well intentioned, some of us may just not know any better. But it’s these micro interactions that shape what kind of person we grow up to be.

Participation in these immersive experiences will demonstrate the harm that perpetuating false myths can cause.

My teammates photo by @MadameEM

The Presentation

Learn something new by not being you.

We quickly realized more limitations in Live Action VR — you can’t really move around in it, cause its a video (not a 3D video) but for the purposes of the hackathon, we could prototype in keyframes to get our story across.

The key is to convey the ‘less-obvious’ — subtle, quiet, and a snippet into a life of someone that is not you.

As you begin the experience, your horizon line will lower. You become someone else. You are not you.

You’re in a hallway. You see a note to go to the guidance office.
You hear chatterings … “you throw like a girl!” “stop being a sissy”

Your guidance counselor puts you in a class because all your friends are there. Science is too hard anyway.

A teacher at the end speaks to you and wonders why you’re dropping the class, because you are good at science.

View the full presentation here.

We hope to create more ‘not you’ stories to help bring more mindfulness into these subtle interactions. We would like to later touch on issues regarding race, socio-economic class, gender identity, cultural awareness and more.

There are, of course, many real differences between social groups, and even more differences within those groups, but many of the persistent myths of ‘Otherness’ are just that, Myths. They exist only in the imagination of the believers.

By experiencing life as ‘not you’, the viewer can become what they are not, allowing for greater understanding and empathy. Participation in these immersive experiences will demonstrate the harm that perpetuating these myths can cause. The view will experience the truth behind these persistent myths of difference as the falsehoods they truly are.

Littlestar shot a 360 video of us! You can see it here:

The best best best part was to see some of the amazing projects that came out of the hackathon! I’ll be sure to update this post when all the projects get uploaded. Here are some more cool 360 photos from the hack on LittlStar!

What are the Next steps for Not You?

1. I would love to get more familiar with Unity 3D — after looking over the project, I feel Live Action may not be the best medium for this.

2. Test, test, test! We were not able to do much testing on our concept and I’d love to really understand how VR may be able to encourage empathy (like this Stanford experiment with VR)

3. Sound — we recorded some basic sound for this. As we developed the concept though, a big part of this would be sound design! (The folks at Freedom 360 mentioned about Unreal Engine to map out soundscapes)

Thanks again for reading!

[Update] Great clip from Tech Times featuring some of the participants!


At Verbal+Visual, We craft considered e-commerce…


At Verbal+Visual, We craft considered e-commerce experiences for thoughtful brands.

Carolyn Jao

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At Verbal+Visual, We craft considered e-commerce experiences for thoughtful brands.