Tech companies such as Facebook are creating virtual meeting spaces where people can hang out and interact in real time. A lot of these efforts aim to replicate the in-person experience as much as possible. But this means even the negative aspects of meetings might be ported over too—things like bias, negativity, and lack of emotional intelligence.
As a team, we thought that virtual reality could provide an interaction layer for meetings that could address some of these softer problems head-on. Hello VR is a playful exploration of the opportunities offered by virtual reality as a meeting medium.
My role was in research, brainstorming interaction ideas, prototyping through bodystorming, designing and modeling the virtual environment, and integrating the 3D assets into Unity.
Through our research, we identified 3 key areas where meetings break down.
Luckily, there is a way to make meetings more effective: include a skilled facilitator. A well-trained, experienced facilitator will possess emotional intelligence, and create the conditions for psychological safety and equal participation.
So the question became: could the virtual reality interaction layer play the role of a meeting facilitator?
As a team, we discussed ways in which we imbue a virtual environment with the qualities of a good meeting facilitator. We wanted to take advantage of what VR can do that real world interactions can’t, or at least, not as easily.
The three concepts in these sketches:
How do you prototype VR interactions quickly and effectively? This was a 7 week project after all. For our first round of prototypes, we conducted bodystorms with unwitting participants.
We set up a scenario for the participants, then one of us acted as the silent VR facilitator, using props such as sticky notes and printouts.
The premise: a team of marketers, engineers, and designers must design a new creature made up of existing animal parts to act as a home assistant.
To create conflict, we gave each participant secret goals that directly contradicted others’ goals.
From our IRL prototype, we had 3 major takeaways:
Once we had determined which features to include in the VR demo, we moved into Unity3D to create an interactive and immersive prototype. Teammates Alex and Mischa handled the code to create a collaborative drawing experience, while Janel and I worked on the aesthetic direction, and designing and modeling the 3D assets needed for the prototype.
We were able to prototype four features in VR:
How can you tell when your negative energy is bringing everyone down? The Negativity Minion uses natural language processing to figure that out for you, and let you know—privately—that you need to be more positive.
The days of one person dominating a meeting are over. If anyone is talking for too long without letting others participate, HelloVR will shrink them to let them know.
Is someone trying to explain something and not getting their point across? How can you let them know in VR, where there is no body language? Deploy the Ambiguity Fog, which is a sign to slow down and clear things up.
Want to show someone just how much you agree with them? Clap you hands to send Posivibes their way! They can high-five you to release even more Posivibes!