First VR Documentary ~ UM Canesfest 2017

VR documentary premiered 5/4/2017, using WondaVR software.

Travel & Meet

Travel & Meet was created to help pair solo travelers pool resources together for lodging and connect users when traveling alone.

Solo travelers are met with higher prices for room accommodations and many times, these serve as barriers to social interactions. Our prototype focused on the solo traveler and highlighted connecting individual needs and preferences. By connecting users, our app, Travel & Meet will help organize activities ranging from gastronomic activities to cultural events. Understanding the needs and of users and scheduling local venues with others will ensure a more immersive culturally enriched experience for travelers that decide to connect. By motivating and creating human interaction opportunities, Travel & Meet promotes mental health, which can often be a negative side effect of traveling alone.

20161129_154011
Creating an alpha version of our app, we found portions that needed to be truncated.

The solo traveler must make additional accommodations as they rely on the tourism commission of where they are to visit. By creating an app that will help solo travelers pair with others, there will be financial and social benefits in their collaboration. Also, researching mental health and loneliness were found to be issues in many solo travelers. On the same note, it has been discussed that individuals have greater experiences and are willing to venture to new gastronomic and cultural experiences (Mak, Lumbers, & Eves, 2011). There is a potential for not only roommate matching but ideal accommodation selection. Users will create a profile indicating their preferences that are not currently part of other apps for lodging.

Unique Features

By indicating “Wake Up” and “Bedtime” on their profile, a match for rooming together would be taken into consideration. Eating and event type or preferences would also be considered in a matching system algorithm. By having a pre-planning lodging function, Travel & Meet allows users to book together as a third party bypassing the barrier that many hotels and other travel agency websites do not facilitate. Other apps such as Uber have a “Split Fare” function that would work in a similar manner. It would be specified how the individuals to will discuss living arrangements once they connect.

User Persona & Interviews

The creation of a user persona prepared our project for interviews in the hospitality industry. With better insights and further focus in understanding what a user would expect, our interview questions were able to target what would be needed and any impediments that would be encountered.

Interviews

Our access to the hospitality industry allowed for questioning into commonly asked questions for solo travelers. It was concluded that cultural events that involve socialization are the most commonly requested. By incorporating food experiences into our research, we found that when travelers venture with others they are more likely to be immersed in the local experience and try new cuisine (Jackson, P., Watson, M., & Piper, N., 2013).

Our academic poster highlights the key portions of our design and demonstrates the empathy map we created for our User Persona.

App Features

Users are to create a profile once they choose to use Travel & Meet. They enter their picture if they choose to, age, gender, and home city. They are then able to set up lodging and an agreement with another user to rent a hotel for a conference or for a nicer room by pooling their resources. Once a traveler is in their destination city they will be able to connect with those around them. Location is collected by the app using GIS technology to facilitate finding another user in proximity. Date and Time are set in the Invite Offers section of the app to indicate preference. The final step is food preference and selecting this unlocks options for those corresponding restaurants in the area at similar times. Users can use an invite matching system that will use algorithms to connect with others or they can post their event invitation so that others may join them.

Events

Events will work in a similar fashion to the food portion of the app, however, the event will be labeled per the cultural type. For example, museums connections will most likely be highlighted during daytime hours while dance clubs will have more connections during late evening hours. This will also be considered when users are creating a profile for lodging. Bedtime and eating preferences are important in connecting users but their sleeping habits and length must also be considered.

Innovative Development

The algorithms that will be used for the app are most importantly reserved for the timing options, especially concerning Lodging. The advantage that this app over others is the profile selection of time preferences. Other meet up apps do not indicate when a user is readily available or is just browsing. By having an indicated time and place, this will ensure that there is a place that users can meet. This becomes important for a traveling business person at a conference that would like to room with another with a similar bedtime or eating preferences. A user that prefers daytime activities and a midnight bedtime should not be connected in lodging with a user that prefers nighttime activities and a 5am bedtime while traveling.

App Creation

Using the program Sketch, we created a prototype for Travel & Meet. The advantage of Sketch is the ability to create our app ranging from graphic design and connects to Invision which allows for hotspots. By using first focusing on user functionality, we created a user persona for Beverly Meyers, a professional solo traveler. Using an empathy map we could target the inner process and needs that one would encounter when traveling solo. Also, by having access to the hospitality industry, we could take field notes about the special requests and needs that many solo travelers are met when away from home.

Our prototype demonstration can be viewed below:

Application of Research

Using our knowledge of accommodations and activities expected by solo travelers, we met to discern three categories: Lodging, Food, and Culture. By categorizing these as the important needs of travelers we began to draw out how we would post activity types to allow for faster and easier connections. With the three categories selected our team began to develop a wireframe using Sketch. Sketch also allowed us to create a prototype using an iOS frame which can easily be transferred to other platforms.

Travel & Meet although a prototype determined to keep light colors for our app as it makes travelers feel comfortable and gives a sense of security which helps promote mental health when traveling. The ease of access was also taken into consideration as users can easily swipe back using the hamburger or mailbox icons.

Users will have the opportunity to select Invite Offers or see those that are already available. By having both options, users can decide whether they would like to create an even or choose to participate.

Acknowledgements

We thank all the volunteers, classmates, and our instructors Professor Lien Tran and Professor Kim Grinfeder for their constant support and feedback throughout the process. Their knowledge and guidance have led us to create an app with purpose and to stimulate social change. By focusing on organization and new technologies, we were able to create an app that would help travelers and ensure bettering their mental health.

References

  1. Mak, Lumbers, Eves, & Chang. (2012). Factors influencing tourist food consumption. International Journal of Hospitality Management, 31(3), 928-936.
  2. 2. Chang, Kivela, & Mak. (2010). Food preferences of Chinese tourists. Annals of Tourism Research, 37(4), 989-1011.
  3. Mak, Lumbers, & Eves. (2011). Globalisation and food consumption in tourism. Annals of Tourism Research,Annals of Tourism Research.
  4. Dining Solo. (2014).American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 8(4), 244-245.
  5. Stern, J., & Stern, M. (1999). Communal dining may be the answer for those who hate to eat alone. (Column).Nation’s Restaurant News, 33(43), 30.
  6. Jackson, P., Watson, M., & Piper, N. (2013). Locating anxiety in the social: The cultural mediation of food fears. European Journal Of Cultural Studies, 16(1), 24-42.

From Table Top to Screen: Games for Social Change

Being able to experience the games created by the others in Designing Innovation was a treat. It was great to see my colleagues create games and it was apparent that they truly invested time and effort making a social change. I spent the most time playing Codepet, created by Laura Kurtzberg and Chelsea Haina. This game is to teach kids how to code and as an educator, I found this to be a fun and useful tool. What was most motivating was the feedback that we were able to give that would make the game really expand and create newer coding statements. The introduction of If Then statements to children will help them grasp not only coding but cause and effect while also teaching that to every action there are consequences.

codepet codepet2

When Friends Work Together

Working with Rori Kotch  has been an incredible experience. We have learned so much together and have supported one another through deadlines and spent long hours to go beyond what we even expected from ourselves as individuals. We didn’t need to push each other in the projects we’ve worked on; we both kept each other moving like two cogs. Our assignment this round was to play Pandemic, a game about disease control which educates players about the necessities to keep a global outbreak from happening. It was fun to sit down and play a game with Rori and we found ourselves having to enter the porous Magic Circle when it was game time. Yeah, this was work. But this was also a game. I could feel something different going on as we studied the game and had to become invested and immersed. Once we gave in, the game began to flow and we sought objectives as gamers. We were very 1337.

Figure 1. Pandemic lays out the basics on the first page so that players can orient themselves.

Figure 2. The next pages explain movements which were simple to follow after a round or two.

Figure 3. Things begin to get interesting as I feel a connection to the Latin American region as I have friends and loved ones living there demonstrating Magic Circle theory of how real world discrimination and points of view are carried into the game environment.

Figure 4. Wanting to visit a loved one in Colombia, I quickly point out to Rori that Bogotá needs to be saved. The game calls for strategy but player types have different motivations on how they think they should approach the choices presented.

Figure 5. Having lived in Buenos Aires, I was extremely pleased to eradicate the card from the game. It was the event cards that really determined how Rori and I were eventually able to eradicate all the diseases in the game.

Figure 6. As Rori took care of Asia, I used an airlift event card to meet her in Europe and finish in the Middle East.

The game was extremely entertaining and did simulate the frustration that one would face when diseases cannot be contained and then spread. The game had events which made it pleasurable for us but in reality, diseases kill and that is not a topic to take lightly. The use of  Earth as a map can help create empathy for players which I found to be the most valuable lesson to take away: that as a globe we are fighting to eradicate extinction, a repetition of the Black Plague or the 1918 Flu Pandemic.

Depressive Quest

depressionanxiety

We were asked to play a virtual game for social change and I chose Depressive Quest. As an advocate and open sufferer of anxiety and depression, I found this game to be very valuable. There were many warnings and links to the National Suicide Hotline which at first was disconcerting. There were warnings for suffers not to play and quite honestly I saw it as a challenge. I wanted to see how they capture a depressive state in a virtual game. I was amazed that they were able to capture the narrative with restricting choices. Many times those that suffer from anxiety or depression want to speak up and they cannot because they feel choked up and lack access to healthcare professionals. I was upset that I was not able to find an option to or able to choose to seek help but it was so real and simply in text. It captured what happens. It even restrained choices, I may easily want to click to go to work but when one is suffering from a mental health issue, simple functions such as going to work are affected. I was highly impressed and do not suggest having others who suffer depression to play. One round was enough for me as it struck close to home and as the game stated at the end. This game there is no winning, just a simulation of the helplessness that many feel when they really want to succeed. #endstigma #mentalhealth

Zika Project Design

Objective
Our objective for this project was to educate sexually active males in Miami-Dade and Broward county about the Zika virus. Males have been shown in studies to show less concerned with pregnancy than women, which may help to perpetuate the spread of Zika & microcephaly in South Florida. By educating and focusing on this demographic, this would improve lives in general as women that become pregnant and contract Zika, their children have a higher probability of having microcephaly. In using VR technology, we created a hybrid wireframe and prototype for a VR experience that educates about Zika and safe sex practices using Invision hotspots.

An Introduction Video Pitch to our Informative Zika Virtual Reality Experience

Rationale
We are targeting this market as the Zika virus has found a concentration in neighborhoods that have higher STD rates which is an ideal area for its spread. Miami-Dade County and Broward County, to the North, are frequented by both locals and tourists for recreation and business. By focusing on a group that would be unresponsive during this epidemic, Zika information and safe sex practices would educate and also help reduce the spread of other STDs.

Research & Design

To further understand the problem we conducted four human-centered design exercises. These exercises helped us to figure out our exact audience and the problem as a whole.

Our first step in research was to perform interviews with people in the community. Rori took on female subjects who live or visit the area. She interviewed a Washington D.C. resident who owns a house in the keys. She visits at least once or twice every 4 months and is concerned with the long-term effects of Zika as she would like to have a child someday. In order to prevent contracting the virus while here she says she simply uses bug spray and wears longer clothing at night. Rori’s second interview was with a Wynwood resident. While the entire community seemed to be worried about Zika in Wynwood, this UM student seemed particularly calm. She explained that all she really did was turn the air conditioning a bit cooler and brought her indoor plants outside so as to not have any standing water inside the house.

Two informal interviews were done to capture the personas closely. A heterosexual male and a homosexual male were asked about the storyboard message and interactions for feedback. They both have no children, are single, sexually active and use protection most of the time . The heterosexual male did show interest in parenting costs and how Zika would affect them but did not ask much about pregnancy. They were shown VR experiences using an Oculus Rift and were highly interested in the technology. The homosexual male pointed out that they were not concerned with Zika or its sexual transmission as the LGBT community has had to focus on HIV/AIDS. They also were not interested in the parental responsibility or costs. The VR experiences were highly celebrated and received.

Once we understood how the community was feeling we were able to move on to another exercise. In this exercise, we created an imaginary persona to further understand our audience. Our persona’s name is Gabriel Batman.

Gabriel is

  • 33-year old South Beach resident
  • Heterosexual
  • Lives with a homosexual roommate.
  • Actor
  • Spends time at nightclubs in Miami
  • Skateboarder
  • Not concerned at all with Zika as he feels he will not be getting anyone pregnant.
  • Uninformed about the effects of Zika and the fact that the virus can persist in blood, urine and semen for up to six months, so he is putting his sexual partners at risk

Further Analysis

Lastly, we did an exercise called abstract laddering. This exercise helped us focus more on the bigger picture rather than the specifics of the problem. Since we had already done the more specific tasks abstract laddering was a little tough as we had become used to focusing on our persona. However, in doing this activity we realized that males also worry about financial responsibilities when it comes to pregnancies, an idea we incorporated into our VR experience.

abstract-ladder

Audience Profile

Our design solution is aimed to target sexually active males as there may be a lower tendency to be concerned with female pregnancy. STDs are perceived to be a sign of infidelity and lack of responsibility by Latino males in one study researching HPV which is also thought to be a women’s only issue (Fernandez et al., 2009).

  • Fernandez, M., Mccurdy, S., Arvey, S., Tyson, S., Morales-Campos, D., Flores, B., Useche, B. Mitchell-Bennett, L., Sanderson, M. (2009). HPV knowledge, attitudes, and cultural beliefs among Hispanic men and women living on the Texas–Mexico border. Ethnicity & Health, 14(6), 607-624.

In another attempt to further understand our audience we completed a stakeholder mapping exercise as a class. We found this exercise extremely helpful in identifying what market we wanted to concentrate on.Stakeholders

 

 

 

 

 

Concept Map

By concept mapping, our experience we were able to depict relationships between different areas within the same subject matter.

Or primary label is our entire VR experience, and then it branches out to different aspects. The secondary branches are VR, data visualization, branding, women and men. Each of these branches off to further levels and some of them interconnect to show the relationships between the topics.zika-concept-map-page-1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heuristic Review

Our heuristic reviews were crucial in understanding how to design an experience that is both well designed & informative. In doing our reviews we looked at other Zika virus resources and evaluated their usability from a nonbiased viewpoint.

Center for Disease Control (CDC):

  • No visibility of system status as their website is not extremely interactive.
  • Updated frequently.
  • The user is able to navigate freely, and there are breadcrumbs to allow the user to go back and forth to different pages.
  • Breadcrumbs also assist in error prevention and recognition rather than recall as the user is able to navigate throughout the website without recalling what page they were just on.
  • Aesthetically is interesting and consistent.
  • Interesting infographics on the site that are comprehensive and informative.

Design Considerations

  • Zika mosquito – bigger than usual in VR so that it can be highlighted
  • A fully functional 360 environment
  • Floating panels with Zika information/pictures/ interactive panels for storytelling elements
  • Connect information to other STDs and sexual responsibility
  • Incorporate some type of humor as it is lost in other experiences (Lee et al., 2015)
    • Lee, J. Y., Slater, M. D., & Tchernev, J. ( 2015). Self-Deprecating Humor Versus Other-Deprecating Humor in Health Messages. Journal of Health Communication, 20,10, 1185-1195
  • Change habits using new technology
  • More research in Health Communication Theory message construction
  • Inoculation Theory – a dose of the message will have an effect, like a vaccine. We hope the VR experience will allow the user to be exposed to the message and although it may be a weaker introduction that a more informational approach we hope the user will take away information and confidence from the experience. According to the “Examining HPV Threat-to-Efficacy Ratios…” study, the message should be a strong “dosage” so that the severity of Zika’s sexual transmission is not lost by the experience. A careful balance between fear, severity and technological impression must be calibrated to the right “dosage” to maximize the effectiveness of the message.
    • Nick Carcioppolo , Jakob D. Jensen , Steven R. Wilson , W. Bart Collins , Melissa Carrion & Georgiann Linnemeier (2013) Examining HPV Threat-to-Efficacy Ratios in the Extended Parallel Process Model, Health Communication, 28:1, 20-28
  • One day expand the experience to not only men, but also women so that they are more knowledgeable about the ZIka virus.
  • Put the user in a natural environment as a metaphor to the birds & the bees
    Our concept map captures these elements which can later be prganized on a storyboard.

Storyboards

Our VR experience will begin with a mosquito buzzing around the 360 space. We are doing this in order to engage the user right at the start and get them used to the VR space. Then, they will be able to select different panels from floating panels. These are where the information will be presented. The first set of panels will be above a tree stump and then there will be a change in scenery. We plan on having simulated wind, swirling leaves and bees guide the user to turn around. This is not only to draw their attention to new information, it is also a metaphor for turning a new leaf. It is in these panels that the user will learn about the transmission, prevention and effects of the Zika Virus. Once the user is finished going through the panels they are to squash the Aedes aegypti mosquito with a tree branch from the experience.

Storyboard

Wireframes

We made the initial prototype using Adobe Illustrator and Invision. This prototype is more of a look at the interface. Our prototype is intended for Gear VR, so in designing for more interactivity we would indicate when the user should click through the prototype.

The ideal look and feel of the prototype would be low-poly with realistic elements. The realistic elements would be the mosquitoes. Below there is an inspiration photo, this is what we would like the experience to look like.

store_stylizedlowpolyenvironment_screenshot_2-1920x1080-f9741ef6eacb35bd4d4cd13ff64379bf
Image credit: https://www.unrealengine.com/marketplace/stylized-low-poly-environment

 

Interactive Mockups

After feedback from our classmates, we made some changes to the prototype. Instead of using colored objects to create the prototype we decided it would be best to create a role prototype, where the user could see how things would work in the experience. We added more labels to the prototype in order to tell the prototype testers how to proceed.

The prototype we made is more of a role prototype– one that shows the architecture of the information and experience.

The prototype can be seen HERE.

User Flows

This screencast of our prototype demonstrates how the prototype works. There are many different paths the user could take, so we decided it was best to show all of them.

The user enters the experience by tapping on a button. This button could be in the center of the screen or they could just simply tap on the side navigation on the Gear to enter. Then, they are taken to another screen where an Aedes mosquito begins buzzing around the title and lands on the title. The user then needs to tap again to enter the experience. We decided to have them tap two times to enter in order to have them acclimated to the VR setting. For many, this would be their first time using VR so it is important that they feel comfortable when they begin.

Once the user has entered the experience they will be immersed into a 360 VR environment that will be designed to look like they are in nature. There will be a forest of trees behind them and there will be a clearing with a long tree and a tree stump. This is where they will interact with the environment.

Atop the tree stump, there will be cans spraying bug spray. The user will then click on these to access information about the mosquitoes that carry the virus, the history of the virus and the active Zika zones in the area. The lone tree will have flowers on it that the user will interact with

When the user is finished interacting with those panels there will then be simulated wind, leaves and bees blowing and flying in the opposite direction they are standing, signaling them to turn around to the tree.  The user will also have the option to interact with the bees in a sort of mini-game in which they can tap the bees and they will disappear. Our inspiration for the mini-game was wack-a-mole, so this experience will be similar.

Once the user has turned around the flowers on the tree will bloom, signaling the user to tap on them. The flowers contain information about the transmission of the Zika virus, prevention methods and the costs of raising a child with microcephaly. The last flower in the series will guide signal them to pick up a branch and squash a mosquito that is sitting on the tree stump. This concludes the VR experience.

To test the effectiveness of the experience we plan on conducting pre and post tests. Ideally, the feel of the experience would be a low-poly look and feel with realistic mosquitoes and bees.

Again, to view the full prototype please follow the link HERE.

A Virtual Journey and the Experience: ZIKA in South Florida

Objective

The purpose of this game is to educate the public on the Zika virus in South Florida. It includes information about its transmission, carriers, prevention, and consequences. Therefore, it is a serious game that relates to public health.

gabriel3

Visit this website for the game experience:

http://www.sploder.com/games/members/armandorubi3/play/zika-game-beta/#kickdown

Background Research

The Zika Virus is a vector-borne disease that is carried by Aedes mosquitoes, specifically the Aedes aegypti and the Aedes albopictus. The Zika virus can also be spread via bodily fluids such as semen, urine and blood. Therefore, Zika is also a sexually transmitted disease. The disease could be prevented by using bug spray with Deet, wearing long-sleeved light clothing and by practicing safe sex. Zika airus symptoms include rash, fever, joint pain in the arms and legs and conjunctivitis. In order to even be tested for Zika the patient must display at least two symptoms.

Rationale

We believe this game is relevant to public health issues as frequently people are overwhelmed with information about Zika. In our game, we aimed to educate the player while distilling down all of the information to the most relevant and important information. Throughout the game there are informational portions that explain prevention methods, Zika carriers, transmission and effects of the Zika virus.

Alpha Version of the Game

The first version of the game was wireframed on paper and prototyped using Sploder. It was later sent to four users for testing and evaluation. They were asked to comment on the game and how it could be improved. Using their feedback, it was apparent that the testers were learning about Zika. One user stated, “Wait, am I actually being EDUCATED?” as they were playing. The main criticism was to have more space between events so that users felt that they were exploring the environment in depth.

The alpha version was to test Sploder and incorporate the Zika research we had found to be valuable and took advantage of another media form to get our health message across to users.

The alpha version was to test Sploder and incorporate the Zika research we had found to be valuable and took advantage of another media form to get our health message across to users.

Beta Version

Incorporating user feedback with game design methods covered in class and Macklin & Sharp (2016), we separated game mechanics from narrative elements. This would create a constant cycle of action and education which would cause players to read each text box as it may be related to their avatar actually surviving the game.

Figure 1
Figure 2
Figure 3
Figure 4

Figure 1. After user feedback of the Alpha version of the game, new mechanics were added and the layout was expanded.

Figure 2. For the Beta version wireframe, we incorporated user testing by spaced out messages and designated narrative elements and mechanics to keep the flow interesting thus create immersion.

Figure 3. A shield mechanic was used to simulate condom usage around Zika virus cells. This helped further focus on the health message of safer sex practices to help combat the spread of Zika and microcephaly pregnancies.

Figure 4. The active and educational portions were separated to ensure that players would not get accustomed to one mechanic over the other. This ensures they will read educational messages as they do not know if it will help with their survival in the game.

User Audience

The user persona we developed for this project, is called Gabriel Batman. Gabriel is a 33-year-old heterosexual male. Gabriel shares a condo with a homosexual roommate in South Beach. Gabriel is sexually active and often sexually irresponsible. This persona was created with our Zika research and has continued to be the target of our Zika awareness as videogaming and virtual reality experiences have been shown to be responsive to this demographic.

Goals

The main goals of the game are to describe South Florida as Zika “hot zone” and t o introduce different ways of preventing Zika:

  • Use of bug spray
  • Wearing long sleeves
  • Avoiding Aedes mosquito breeding areas
  • Practice safe sex

Also, to educate the player on the following issues in relation to Zika:

  • How bug sprays work
  • Avoid stagnant water
  • Zika via sexual transmission
  • Microcephaly as an effect of zika contraction
Gabriel meets a doctor in the virtual world. Why would a doctor stand around giving advice on an elevated platform? In gaming it is acceptable as players adapt to the type of environments they inhabit.
Gabriel meets a doctor in the virtual world. Why would a doctor stand around giving advice on an elevated platform? In gaming it is acceptable as players adapt to the type of environments they inhabit.

The Elements of the Play Design & Core Mechanics

Using the Website Sploder.com, we were able to use a pre-existing game engine to create a 2D sidescroller.

  • Actions  The character of Gabriel is moved by using the arrow keys as in most games. The Up key was set for jumping to keep a directional orientation and keep input minimal. The Enter key was used to exit text boxes although user testing showed that many would use the mouse to click next arrow. The Spacebar was used for a spray(shooting) mechanic which destroys Aedes nests and later on Zika virus mobs (enemy non-playable characters). A swim animation can be seen when Gabriel moves through water.
  • Goals  Gabriel must survive getting to his car without dying; this is achieved by avoiding Zika mosquitoes and the Zika virus mobs.
  • Rules  “arrow” keys for moving; “enter” key for exiting dialogue; contact with Aedes deducts points; bug spray destroys mosquito nests.
  • Objects  A natural ground level was used to keep with the nature theme that we have found to be useful for Zika. The more urban representations that were supplied by Sploder were too futuristic and would ruin the immersive element of the game. Signs were placed as objects to trigger events and to demonstrate to a non-gamer in which direction to press the arrow keys. Background scenery was used to create a more natural environment. The later part of the level attempts to use scenery to create a fountain area which gave a feel of Lincoln Road, the heart of South Beach, or where Gabriel would most likely park. Aedes, doctor, girl, bug spray
  • Playspace 2D side-scrolling environment; virtual South Beach
  • Players  Gabriel – user allowed to depict avatar for choice options and identification

The game can be viewed with descriptive annotations in the video below:

Competitive Analysis

Pittsville Town: Silent Enemies

pittsvilletown.herokuapp.com/
An informative game about vector-borne diseases that is similar to ours is called Pittsville Town Silent Enemies. The game covers other diseases and as the title suggests and is funded by the Pan American Health Organization and World Health Organization. The game does have similar aspects in that the goal of the game is to defeat the mosquitoes. It demonstrates better budgeting and time investment was put into this game to inform the public of how a local town can have a silent enemy, in this case vector borne diseases.
 
pittsville1
pittsville2
Heuristic Review

Center for Disease Control (CDC):

  • Loaded with relevant information regarding the Zika Virus.
  • Infographics and small graphic elements throughout the site that do make the information easy to understand.
  • Side navigation split up into many categories, which helps the user access the exact information that they are looking for.
  • No interactivity (maps, games, etc.)
  • Low social media following

Further Development

This project has given us the opportunity to create a game for social change and it is closely related as we are living in South Florida. By continuing to be advocates for Zika education, we are currently working on the finalized version of the game for distribution to educate the public. Taking user feedback for the beta into consideration, the project will continue to expand the level and possibly create an additional stage as players continued to suggest more space to separate events.

National Hurricane Center 2.0

Creating Wireframes

Beginning to restructure the National Hurricane Center for class, we reviewed how wireframes can lead to organization and an easy mock-up or prototype for several media forms. Reviewing the website was quite extensive and for user testing there had to be a focus or objective as to work on the whole site is time consuming. For this reason, research into stakeholders led to concerns about outdoor pets and activities involving children and the elderly. During stakeholder interviews, it was seen that some receive their information from others and chose to target groups that have even further limit on information access or use it for safety procedures. By beginning with simple boxes, I was able to layout a map of the pages that were needed to be adapted or created. After, I created images using Adobe Illustrator and linked them using hotspots using Invision.

Aesthtetics and a grid system were used to help with better symmetry as I continue to improve with Illustrator. Practice makes perfect!
Aesthtetics and a grid system were used to help with better symmetry as I continue to improve with Illustrator. Practice makes perfect!

This mock website was sent to an Oceanographer from CUNY that uses the NHC website for his work, an IT/app developer and a Web/graphics designer. They were given three tasks to complete using the mock website and were not given a time limit. They were immediately completed.

The website can be seen and interacted with here : https://invis.io/468ZG1G2F#/197689993_Nhc_Home

Tasks for Usability Test

The three testers were contacted by email or instant message and directed to use the site on a desktop computer.

Here are the 3 tasks you have to do for this easy clicking website. It is very basic but just give feedback on the tasks you were asked to do. Should take 3-5 minutes. 5-7min total, including feedback. Thank you.

1. What are the ways that you can find immediate information and/or advisories for children, outdoor pets and activities?

 

2. Is there supplemental information that is not located in the education section about hurricane preparation?

3. What are the different ways to turn off notifications and where does this lead you?

Outdoor plants, flying debris were also motivators to make sure high wind advisories are highlighted. Also, a practical education guide was focused on as the simple preparations many times are overlooked or go with lack of planning.
Outdoor plants, flying debris were also motivators to make sure high wind advisories are highlighted. Also, a practical education guide was focused on as the simple preparations many times are overlooked or go with lack of planning.
User Feedback

Findings:

There needs to be a more natural flow

  • Suggestion: IT and Web designer suggested Add/fix up navbar for better orientation

The short snippets of education that were to be located as part of the task were found to be too little. As this was for task execution, it is a good example of how the education portion is focused on and how different information is valuable for different people.

Notifications were easy to find and information was quickly attainable

  • Suggestion: Oceanographer suggested to reincorporate levels of advisory into notifications to compare current state on a scale so that viewers can note how severe an advisory might be in comparison. Referred me back to NHC as part of feedback.

Each user answered differently for the first question yet all answers were correct; there are several ways to get information for child and pet safety

Supplemental information was not easily accessible or misunderstood as task. Need to be more specific in task about what supplemental information is being asked for

  • Recommended by IT and Web Designer: continue to work on layout and clean any pixilation that may still be on sight. Maps, text, logos
    • Suggestion: Next cleanup of website for second wave testing, improve integrity and look of website
  • Recommended by Oceanographer: If safety and education are a focus, there should be a notification if my area should evacuate.
    • Suggestion: Implement Storm severity scale and evacuation map by zip code under Notifications

Notes:

Task 1: What are the ways that you can find immediate information and/or advisories for children, outdoor pets and activities?

This task was quickly performed as intended by 2 of 3 users. Information is located under Education and Notifications – Special Precautions section

One user stated map on home screen displays enough information and used local search to check weather in area.

Task 2 question may lead users to return and change answer as it is a continuation. The Notifications – Special Precautions was answered by 2 of 3 but reliability testing questions if Task 2 effected response.

Task 2: Is there supplemental information that is not located in the education section about hurricane preparation?

While users did information for Task 1, this question was vague for all three users and they attempted their best response. The Oceanographer made suggestions that are very valuable in continuing the construction of the website by referring back to the site.

Task must be clarified as the Editor’s Article feature has supplemental information. It may be that the feature was glossed over looking for information that is categorized differently or expected to be in a clustered or more official format. Eye-tracking technology would be a great insight into this question as to see how long or little did users look at Editor’s Article Headline.

Reading an article may also be unattractive to some users as it involves time and the word article can be intimidating for those looking for quick information

Task 3: What are the different ways to turn off notifications and where does this lead you?

Users were able to turn off the notification bar by clicking it and seeing what is urgent.

One user (It and Web Designer) said he had no idea, however, they spent a lot of time searching and experimenting for Task 1 or 2. I question whether this was task exhaustion and/or the notification counter was restarted by the testing website which could have led to his confusion. Their advanced knowledge of web design and little knowledge of the project left expectations of more interactivity and options.

User was able to go to Notification Bell and also used Notification Footer. They stated they did not know how to turn on/off notifications which is a great additional feature for someone who visits the website daily for work. They may not want notifications each time.

Thoughts at the end:

Different users have different levels of needs.

  • Profile feature so website recognizes who is visiting and preferences
  • Notification on/off switch for profiles
  • Profile would allow for customization of layout, favorites or “Go To” options

Add complexity

  • Notifications section should have a spectrum showing where the advisory is compared to other categories of storm for comparison
  • Make education section seem fuller so that users do not have to rely on outside sources

Work on web designing skills

  • Work on navigation bar and drop down menus
  • Continue developing aesthetics and grid system practice
The next round of user testing will be focusing on Pirate Captains as they must be aware of the dangers that landlubbers don't be knowin'.
The next round of user testing will be focusing on Pirate Captains as they must be aware of the dangers that landlubbers don’t be knowin’.

 

 

 

 

When Zika and Cultural Practices Meet in Miami

Halloween in South Florida is an exhilarating time, even if you are not in costume. Being a Miami native, I can remember the time when I was first allowed to go to South Beach for Halloween and the craziness that ensued with bizarre costumes and eccentric people. Traditionally, South Beach has been “What’s Hot” for Halloween mixing tourist and local alike while the Wilton Manors neighborhood focuses on the LGBT community in Ft. Lauderdale. As the Wynwood neighborhood becomes the trendiest locale in Miami, a shift of festivity has relieved some of the traffic from South Beach.

As I prepared to go out for Halloween night, someone told me, “I’d go with you to South Beach but it is the Zika zone and I know how you feel about that.”

It made me think critically of the cultural need, desire, belief, custom to pilgrimage to South Beach for Halloween even in spite of Zika. As my team creates a VR experience to educate heterosexual males about Zika and safe-sex practices, this made me question, “How serious will people take the health campaign message?” It was through my own actions that I understood that there can be some perceptions changed even on a small level. I responded, “We can still go! We just need to take precautions.” I immediately Facebook like a good Millennial:

I knew I was going as I felt a strong desire to continue my custom even knowing about Zika. I had to "Stay Protected" as our campaign says.
I knew I was going as I felt a strong desire to continue my custom even knowing about Zika. I had to “Stay Protected” as our campaign says.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As a student of Social Media, I deconstructed my message and note the “LoL” at the end. It is not lack of seriousness towards Zika when I wondered why I added that. It was more along the lines that I could not believe that I was practicing cognitive dissonance, or separating what I know for a moment that might conflict. This must be considered when predicting the outcome of attitude changes of the Zika VR experience. Will the attitude towards safe-sex change with Zika being introduced to the list of STDs? In a VR experience the user may experience attitude change but during sexual activity (which is very distracting) practice cognitive dissonance. As our experience borrows from Inoculation Theory, it could very well be that a follow-up experience or additional “dosage” of the message will have a greater impact. As each week passes researching Zika and prevention methods, I take it more seriously. If my own attitudes can change about a mosquito and I have found value in the reminder of safe-sex practices, I know that our VR experience will have some impact.

Para La Playa

To the beach…! As we drove to South Beach for the festivities (freshly sprayed with OFF! of course) I also thought of my friends headed to Wynwood which was once a Zika zone but is now clear. Would it have been as populated if the zone was not cleared by the CDC? Also, the tradition for many in Miami due to our lovely weather is to show some skin, okay, or a lot of skin. As my teammate reminded me to wear long sleeves, it was not part of my costume. I had long pants on so I just made sure to spray my arms down. The night was eventful with dancing and selfies but I did not note anyone “refreshing” their OFF or bug spray. I was pleased to see a costume commenting on the Zika crisis. A man was wearing a painting coverall with “Anti-Zika” duct-taped along the front with a caulking gun. The illusion he was trying to create was that of a hazmut suit and bugspray. If my parents were not architects and contractors I would have thought it looked more official but was impressed by his clever usage of his work uniform and creating a conception very similar to what a Zika exterminator would be imagined or perceived to look like by the public. Interesting to note that chemical sprays by plane was the method to help eradicate Zika in certain neighborhoods. As I left South Beach, I wondered how we flock to what we know and attitudes are hard to change. I am glad I had this experience as it will make me focus on the construction of the message within the experience even more.

 

Before I head to South Beach, I make sure that my exposed areas are sprayed. I educate everyone in the car that it is not a repellent but a slip agent in the spray that does not allow mosquitoes to land and feed.
Before I head to South Beach, I make sure that my exposed areas are sprayed. I educate everyone in the car that it is not a repellent but a slip agent in the spray that does not allow mosquitoes to land and feed.

 

Anti-Zika Man would shout, "No more Zika in Miami!" Not only was he dressed but playing the part as well which is a form of advocacy.
Anti-Zika Man would shout, “No more Zika in Miami!” Not only was he dressed but playing the part as well which is a form of advocacy.

 

When the Virtual and The Real Meet

This past week I went for my annual physical and noted the bilingual signs on Zika by the entrance. It felt strange to smile at signs about the dangers of Zika but after researching about the topic, I reflected that it is because I now have a sense of ownership and responsibility to educate the public about this vector borne disease. As I met with the nurse for blood pressure and the weighing in, she asks, “Have you traveled outside the country in the past 2 weeks?” I answer, “No. Is this a Zika related question?”

She smiles and answers yes.

“Have you had any symptoms of fever, rash, joint pains or conjunctivitis?” I answer no with another knowing smile and she told me that she is not allowed to even touch me without verifying. I asked her where the mandate comes from and she said it is a local county standard for now. She expressed that many have wanted to be tested but mainly pregnant women. It was also stated that it is an expensive test ranging from $600-800. As others in class have interviewed healthcare professionals, it was interesting to personally experience the healthcare process and note how Zika prevention and safety nets in the county reached even me.

Bilingual information for patients by UHealth. I questioned why there was not a Haitian Creole poster as this is normally seen in Miami-Dade County.
Bilingual information for patients by UHealth. I questioned why there was not a Haitian Creole poster as this is normally seen in Miami-Dade County.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Making the Experience Interactive

Taking our storyboard, we used Invision to create hotspots on where users will be tapping using GearVR or Cardboard technology. The simple tap and point option should impress users with the graphics quality in the VR environment. This is why we have discussed as a team that image quality and sounds need to be invested in for the “impress factor” to have a stronger influence. The messages are also being carefully crafted and evolved mixing both professional and lay terminology to ensure accuracy yet information retention. As my teammate has access to the healthcare industry and I am actively asking for user feedback with my ethnographic background, we continue to meet and brainstorm to refine the prototype that we are creating and constantly improving in increments.

A prototype of our experience can be viewed at: https://invis.io/6H95E0NUM#/201388711_Title_Screen

Several options can be selected by users in the VR experience. There are added layers that can be extended, such as the bees having additional information. Expansion and deeper interactivity is the next step in development.
Several options can be selected by users in the VR experience. There are added layers that can be extended, such as the bees having additional information. Expansion and deeper interactivity is the next step in development.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Multimedia Options

As panels of information appear for each item selected, our team is trying to brainstorm for new ways that the panels can be more impressive or interactive. Multimedia options are becoming a possibility. A mixture of videos, short text panels, animations and mini-games would make the experience more immersive which would help with the health message retention.

Our next step is to continue working on an organizaed task list with the second wave of prototyping after user analysis and feeback. This will allow us to add the more complex layers that we are planning for each interactive feature. By referring to our starting task list, we are seeing how we can create a matrix of options using Microsoft Excel and are currently researching the spaces that need attention. We are currently researching further into medical information, VR technology, narratology, game design and ludology.

 

 

Zika: Creating An Interactive Experience

Researching VR is pioneering. Immersion in interactive media is creating more involved and impressionable experiences for users. By placing users in other environments, new messages and experiences can influence their worldviews. This project is focusing on how to educate sexually active males about Zika and safe sex practices. While Zika campaigns target the general population, our VR experience seeks to get involved with a target group that can be educated with other benefits. Miami-Dade County has one of the highest STDs rates in the country and Zika finding a home here is the perfect opportunity to reinforce safe sex practices and change local views towards women and childcare responsibility.

The persona for Gabriel Batman was created in order to capture the typical, sexually active male. While this demographic varies in personalities, the focus on sex as an objective and concern is highlighted.
The persona for Gabriel Batman was created in order to capture the typical, sexually active male. While this demographic varies in personalities, the focus on sex as an objective and concern is highlighted.

 

Interviews

Two informal interviews were done to capture the personas closely. A heterosexual male and a homosexual male were asked about the storyboard message and interactions for feedback. They both have no children, are single, sexually active and use protection most of the time . The heterosexual male did show interest in parenting costs and how Zika would effect them but did not ask much about pregnancy. They were shown VR experiences using an Oculus Rift and were highly interested in the technology. The homosexual male pointed out that they were not concerned with Zika or its sexual transmission as the LGBT community has had to focus on HIV/AIDS. They also were not interested in the parental responsibility or costs. The VR experiences were highly celebrated and received.

By using the persona profile of Gabriel Batman and his fictional roommate (unnamed), I was able to locate two similar people that the Zika VR message is targeting. Using sexual orientation as a variable, I was able to discern that the financial responsibility message and VR technology are the strongest influencers in the campaign. By concentrating on the heterosexual male as the primary target, it will ensure the crafting of a more detailed and focused message.

 

Wireframing for a VR Experience

By laying out how the user experience would appear, I have created a wireframe based on the concept map that was created by my team. This allows for the spacial presentation to be aligned to the development of the message. The information presented is not necessarily static and must be placed in a 360 environment. By having a wireframe setup, a better organization of our experience can begin.

By having the basic concept drawn out, our team has the information listed. What are our objectives? We defined them and incorporate them into the wireframe structure.
By having the basic concept drawn out, our team has the information listed. What are our objectives? We defined them and incorporate them into the wireframe structure.
Our wireframe demonstrated a basic area setup of where the experience will take place. The idea of a table being the landing spot for the Aepes mosquito later evolves.
Our wireframe demonstrated a basic area setup of where the experience will take place. The idea of a table being the landing spot for the Aepes mosquito later evolves.
Researching Narrative Elements of Competing VR Experiences

Different VR experiences and games were sampled to better understand the layout and narrative elements that current users are experiencing. By having a scope of VR experiences, our team will have better insight as to what is expected and possible in these new virtual environments. The basic wireframe has been embellished to create a new environment option in order to sample how the mosquito and information can be presented to the user. Nature and an outdoors environment has been chosen for testing and further feedback.

Further interaction and a better use of the environment is taken into consideration. Google Cardboard and Samsung GearVR being the main platforms for the experience, movement around the environment is not necessary.
Further interaction and a better use of the environment is taken into consideration. Google Cardboard and Samsung GearVR being the main platforms for the experience, movement around the environment is not necessary.

New Realities and Perspectives

The possibilities of virtual, augmented and mixed realities are full of potential that have yet to be unraveled. There have been attempts in the past to market VR to the public, i.e. Nintendo’s Virtual Boy of the mid-1990s. However, the technological overhaul that hardware has received in the past 20 years has made it faster, cheaper and capable of so much more. The immersive nature of highly developed virtual environments brought to VR goes further than past interactive media by placing the viewer directly into the experience. As more control, customization and environment manipulation is given to the user, the more immersive the experience will become. This has been seen with avatar customization and virtual environment studies (Boellstorff et al., 2012).

Using different versions of Virtual Reality, I find my glasses sitting next to the wearables in this picture as an interesting contrast. Are these technologies the new eye-wear that will help us see further and clearer when creating and experiencing these new virtual environments?
Using different versions of Virtual Reality, I find my glasses sitting next to the wearables in this picture as an interesting contrast. Are these technologies the new eye-wear that will help us see further and clearer when creating and experiencing these new virtual environments?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The cultural artifacts that VR/AR/Mixed Realities are creating are slowly drawing more attention. As the VR craze is new, there are few games or apps that VR users call out as the new Mario or Pacman. Yet, the hardware and what comes next is being reinforced by investment. Magic Leap has very little information released to the public about their Light Fields yet investors continue to trust where mixed reality and its potential profit as the new media is headed. The competitive market also is an indicator of a healthy revival and re-introduction of virtual and augmented realities to the consumer. Updates and upgrades to technologies are the cutting edge trend and a status symbol for many. This has been covered by the media as the masses are willing to stand in line for hours just to get their hands on the newest iPhone or gaming system.

The access to the different pricing levels is also allowing these technologies to be adopted by a greater extent. Samsung recently was including their GearVR headset with newly purchased phones, allowing access to the experience without the intent of purchasing it. This is an interesting diffusion of the technology and is a cunning tactic to get the next generation of VR to be easy entry for the inexperienced or unaware. By finding ways to introduce the public to new virtual formats, adoption will continue to happen. As of recently, Pokémon GO swept the world by storm with its launch and many were introduced to augmented reality because of the identification with a strong, global franchise.

Plato's Allegory of the Cave - There are new ideas and concepts that we must identify as we explore new perspectives and forms of reality.
Plato’s Allegory of the Cave – There are new ideas and concepts that we must identify as we explore new perspectives and forms of reality.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The reintroduction of these new forms of media to the consumer market has led to a reinvestment in the development of the technology and as a game studies scholar I am fascinated by the new spatial concepts that are being questioned in human perspective. Eye tracking technology and spatial recognition are being implemented in game design and virtual environments furthering the immersive experience of the individual. With extensive research in avatars, MMORPGS (Multi-Massively Online Roleplaying Games) and immersion in video games, I find the new realities to be an evolutionary step in design and human perspective. What arguably defined art in the Renaissance was that perspective was introduced. As the current Hyperrealism art movement is an indicator of how close to reality we as artist and designers are trying to capture, now that we are creating on a new plane, the focus on perspective and the layers we are adding is inspiring a new rebirth of virtual and augmented realities.

References:

Boellstorff, T., Nardi, B., Pearce, C., & Taylor, T.L. (2012). Ethnography and virtual worlds: A handbook of method. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

O’Connell, K. (2016). Designing for Mixed Reality: Blending Data, AR, and the Physical World. Sebastopol: O’Reilly Media, Inc.