louis charron / immersive ideation

louis charron / immersive ideation

immersive ideation — using VR to bridge the gap between ideation and prototyping

immersive ideation — using VR to bridge the gap between ideation and prototyping 

It all started at MIT with a simple question: how can we design a boat for Amsterdam in Boston?

Context matters during a project’s ideation phase. It makes us understand the users’ needs and choices, it is a strong vector of empathy. So we associated Virtual Reality immersion to a traditional ideation session and started improving that process. Here is what we learned.

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storyboarding with Tiles IoT Toolkit

storyboarding with Tiles IoT Toolkit

The ideation phase is done using Tiles IoT Toolkit, a set of tools and a methodology designed to accelerate collaborative learning, ideation and prototyping while keeping the human at the center. As Tiles IoT Toolkit is open source, we created our own custom set of cards and board, based on the project’s unique context. Using a custom board and custom cards, each group generated a detailed scenario.

"The journey starts with a set of (problem) scenarios and personas given to participants to choose from. Participants are in turn asked to choose and combine things, data channels, human actions and feedbacks relevant for the chosen scenario. Drawing on the chosen cards, participants elaborate an initial concept and sketch it out on a storyboard. Following, participants are asked to challenge their own ideas getting inspired by missions cards. A refined ideas in now visualised on the idea generator board. Participants are then asked to collaboratively reflect and improve their concepts using criteria cards and to prepare an elevator pitch to present their concept to the the audience (other participants, mentors, investors)."

-> Tiles IoT Toolkit

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from paper to virtual reality

from paper to virtual reality

As drawing on a piece of paper is still the most efficient way to quickly visualize scenarios, the challenge was about translating smoothly the paper based storyboard into a VR animation. To do so we created 3D assets for every Tiles IoT Toolkit cards. After a very short intro to Unity, the participants could choose the assets based on their scenario’s cards and load them in their first 3D scene.

The challenge here is to not lose time in that translation process, from paper to VR through Unity. The library has an major role and needs to be developed before the workshop and updated through the workshop days if needed. The goal is to have  less 3D modeling and animation as possible during the workshop.

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immersive prototyping

immersive prototyping

Once the scene is set up with all the assets, it is time to animate the scenario… and realize everything that is missing! Virtual Reality is an easy way to simulate a scene with a realistic physics, to test what is working and what is not. In the case of an ideation session for the urban space, Virtual Reality allows to discover scenarios at various scales and points of view (as a tourist, as a bird, as a child, etc.).

Animation brings life to the scenarios, but it’s not an easy process, especially for participants without 3D software experience. So we created a library with basic and universal animations (someone walking, seating, walking down a stair, etc.). The assets and the animation can easily be manipulated and modified to create scenarios customized for their unique contexts.

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a feedback tool

a feedback tool

In the paper-to-VR process, scenarios usually evolve significantly. Virtual Reality forces them to be more realistic on some aspects like human interaction: having to animate a character shows the participants how important are some interaction and gestures. The steps of the paper scenario are also disapearing to create one continuous experience, raising questions as « what is actually happening in that blank space between step 4 and 5? »

Immersive prototyping improves the scenarios and can also collect feedback on them. The exciting part of the workshops are the demo session at the end. Unlike traditional ideation session where the results can be drawings or slides, here every participant can wear the helmet and experience other groups’ scenarios. Surveys can be distributed to comment on that experience, and the headset itself can record data from the participant (eye tracking for example).

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What we learned

What we learned

This project started with a colleague from the idea that VR could facilitate our designers’ lives if we knew how to use it properly to generate and test ideas. After two very inspiring workshops at MIT, we are now planning a third one at the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions in the coming months.

We discovered that VR is not that hard to handle, even for total beginners. Gathering students, designers and engineers, the workshops generated several new innovative ideas and solutions for the Roboat project, and we do believe immersive prototyping fostered those fresh ideas!

With the MIT Senseable City Lab and AMS, 2019

Workshop Creators: Quentin Bitran & Louis Charron
Tiles IoT Toolkit: Simone Mora

© louis charron 2019,
built with Semplice

© louis charron 2019 — built with Semplice