Our research led us to conclude that interfaith dialogue is often times destructive due to the lack of information between people. The Faithstrings website provides a VR experience and moderated dialogue community for individuals to deepen their religious knowledge from various faiths to implement an interfaith discussion. By striving to understand the ideology of one another, more empathy will occur between cultures, leading to a more productive and enriching experience.
What it does
With the VR experience in Faithstrings, users may explore different religious backgrounds from a beginner to advanced levels.The experience begins in The House of World’s Religions including Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Taoism and Hinduism. The next step is to select the religious symbols that you are interested in. For example, once you select Islamic symbol, you will be introduced to several Islam concepts. Videos cover information such as as the introduction of Islamic conception to Emir Abdelkader, an influential Islamic leader who helped to save the Christian community of Damascus from a massacre in 1860. By clicking on this portrait, you can listen his story in VR. Similar tasks can be applied to explore several famous paintings in the Christianity room. As a picture is worth a thousand words, our art gallery styled VR experience will allow for open and honest enjoyment and critique. Following the presented surreal images, a spark and continuation of information occurs for the benefit for all with great respect and care. With VR technology, religion learning has never been this interactive in a 360 degree environment to expose to different storytelling. Text, music, and videos are displayed which trigger interactions to different senses. Furthermore, we believe that the VR experience can better introduce emotions of excitement, sympathy and empathy. The belief that VR may isolate people from their social activities is proven false through Faithstrings because the excitement after the experience will encourage users to share their peers and Faithstrings friends. Thus, we ensure that Faithstrings is distinctive because of its experiential learning and strong connectivity. On the Faithstrings website, users interested in enriching their cultural knowledge may connect with others to socialize and share their religion. There are several tabs referring to different religions such as Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Taoism and their sub-categories. Users can post their questions under each tab and receive answers, and people are provided incentives based on their answers. Good answers are determined based on precise and respectful manners. Faithstrings strives to promote the learning process of new cultures and welcoming environment. This is crucial to allow open and free expression without the fear of judgement. Providing an incentive program to promote the empathy and exchange of knowledge and beliefs is very important to continuing and sparking Interfaith Dialogue. Moreover, Faithstrings chat rooms uses basic profanity to trigger word alert moderators. The function of it is to detect conflicts during conversation. These efforts are made to create a safe space of discussion.
How we built it
The VR technology in Faithstrings is inspired by Microsoft BabylonJS. We first selected the theme which is available on BabylonJS to create our main scene. The entire work is to understanding existing BabylonJS sample on their document. The parts that we were dealing with included adjusting cameras, lightening, designing and organizing input information which are images, sound and videos. Detailed tutorials are available at http://www.davrous.com/ by David Rousset. In addition, we use Mixed Reality Development Kit by Microsoft to have VR experience. In order to support a real 3D environment, we also include 3D audio which is also included in Babylonjs documentation. The effects of 3D sounds are realistic once you turn around, come closer and far away from the objects. For example, the sounds becomes louder when you get closer to the objects while will be fade out when you are away from them. Once the VR experience was set up, it was integrated to a Salesforce community web page to facilitate friendly online dialogue within a forum stimulated by what they had experienced in VR. The Salesforce community forum and VR web app can be easily accessed though desktop and mobile devices alike. The salesforce community forum can also be moderated by select individuals to monitor and address destructive conversations.
Challenges we ran into
The major challenge our team faced was developing reasons someone would want use this technology and continue using it. Religion is a very sensitive subject that most people do not want to have casual conversation about, but interfaith dialogue is vastly important in understanding the differences between one another and highlighting that when you remove those differences we are all human. Another challenge was figuring out the proper approach and pitch for something that is heartfelt and a large scale issue.
Accomplishments that I'm proud of
1) Our programmers quickly learn and use BabylonJS in 24 hours timeframe, understand and utilize Saleforce platform for in less than 10 hours and integrated webVR into Saleforce Community Platform. 2) Our efficient teamwork and being able to divide up the work based on our strengths and get tasks done within reasonable times. 3) Figure out a feasible solution to a real problem that can hopefully be implemented in the near future. 4) Research about Catholic and Islam in order to provide a decent content for webVR. 5) Find proper 3D models from Babylonjs and SketchUp.
What we learned
We learn these platforms from scratch ● BabylonJS ● Saleforces Community Platform
What's next for Faithstrings
1) To finalize design of the VR experience and provide cleaner interface with more features and enrich our content within VR. 2) VR technology employed with digital library: Ability to introduce the best book for all religion. 3) Real time VR calling room featuring avatars and real time calling 4) Get the donation and support in term of domain knowledge from religion community all around the world to enrich the virtual platform.