Getting Social in VR
Virtual presence is extending to a wide range of industries, with many predicting a future where virtual presence becomes a primary and common mode of connecting with family, friends and colleagues. As a core player in the ecosystem of internet-enabled technologies, Mozilla envisions a future where our embodied experiences are not limited or controlled by a series of closed hardware platforms, but that we have choice, freedom and control over how to form and maintain our social connections. Through the Hubs platform, Mozilla is ensuring that the tools to create and experience embodied social experiences are widely accessible, providing a showcase and example for what this can be - and the tools to build it. In this 2- week exploration, 12 CIID students worked to discover and describe ideas for future use cases for the Hubs social platform. The objective with each idea is to give concrete ideas for near-term capabilities to develop, as well as to spark conversation about what kinds of experiences the platform could enable with partnerships, what sustainable revenue streams could be devloped - and what can catalyze growth of an open 3Dweb ecosystem.
CIID's approach to innovation starts with people: applying the lens of human experience, identifying and describing what designed experiences could delight audiences currently using VR, and attract those who have not yet seen the right use case. By anchoring ideas in compelling social experiences, we aim to provide concepts which can be adjusted to meet changing technology and tools, while still delivering the value.
Working from a synthesized set of social needs and behaviours primed the team to ideate about how virtual presence, communication, and the open web can enable great experiences. Common, shared social needs provided a starting point for a platform of functional concepts with relevance across contexts and industries.
How might we use social VR to help people ...
Create Something Together?
Over the course of concept development, many quick ideas came up for Hub spaces which are customised for specific uses. The ideas were inspired by a learning from our research - that entering spaces with a suggested purpose and can make entering into a social experience easier. Here are 50 of those quick ideas. Mozilla could inspire a community of creators with these thought-starters.
FINAL EXPERIENCE CONCEPTS
1. Desk Research
A series of expert interviews about the state of the art gave the team a quick grounding in the challenges and potential that artists, educators and designers working in this space are seeing in terms of experience.
Analysing VR experiences
Remote expert interviews
2. Experience Research in CR and VR
The team conducted interviews to explore the interactions that build and strengthen relationships between family, friends and colleagues. From the interviews we collected 42 stories based on real relationships, described in moments of interaction: people, contexts, interactions, and the supporting things, media, services that were essential.
Next, we put on the googles and headed into some immersive experiences on a range of platforms. This gave us a sense of what embodied interaction feels like, and to see how regulars in these spaces are interaction.
Documenting stories of social interactions
Spending time together & meeting staff & community in VR spaces
Sorting through the data led us to identify patterns of needs and behaviors common across many types of relationships and contexts. We then mapped these to narrow down to specific areas of interest and how they relate. The exploration of the multiple linkages and ways of slicing experience led to identifying the 6 overall design challenges which concepts address.
Mapping of interaction types: by motivations
Mapping of interaction types & needs: by activity
Based on the core set of underlying social needs and behaviors, in smaller teams we quickly generated hundreds of possible solutions. Clustering these small ideas, teams combined and built upon them to develop them into experience concepts.
Sorting and discussion initial ideas
Finding related ideas to cluster into concepts
To test and refine concepts, we use bodystorming to play out scenarios of future experiences. Experiencing a concept as it might play out over time allows us to evaluate how compelling it might be, understand specifics, prioritize elements.
Bodystorming the Hubs Grooves concept
INSIGHTS & BELIEFS
Research and analysis led the team to outline a few core beliefs about experience which guided our thinking about the role of virtual presence in social interaction. We see these as guiding principles for ideas we develop for Hubs going foward.
- Meaningful social interaction occurs across a continuum of platforms: Virtual embodiment should offer easy transitions in and out.
- 3D contexts with guidance on why to use the 3rd dimension were more satisfying: Virtual embodiment should enable guiding/guided activities
- We can draw inspiration from Memes about how to build & expand community and apply these principles in 3D - lo-fi, easily created contributions bring life to a space by providing all-access, distributed content. The low barrier to participation, with lean-back commenting, and recurring themes create reasons to return: Hubs should offer lo-fi, easy access, quick consumption options.
- Recall/persistence from previous interactions is a common element of maintaining relationships over time: Hubs should either support persistence, or provide easy tools to export/save content