Judging Info
-Team Lead: Caitlin Kearney
-Team lead's phone number: three-five-too-281-7901
-Location: E15-341 (Nagashima Room)
-Vertical category: Human Well-Being

WANDERER

The Inspiration

While getting off the T at Kendall/MIT Station in route to the hackathon, Caitlin met a women in tears who was experiencing a panic attack on the train...

The woman's name was Camille, a Boston local who immigrated from Haiti years ago. Camille described her experience on the train. Her attack showed no warning but overwhelmed her to the point where she had to stop her journey on the train before reaching work, and in doing so, upsetting her entire day.

Camille, Caitlin, and many other people share anxiety. Our team wants help commuters and travelers have an easier journey so they can enjoy their destination.

The Project

We are solving this problem with a Google Daydream experience that places the user in a hot air balloon over a canyon gorge. The locomotion in the virtual reality environment is based of the users movement in transit, and also alerts the user when they have reached their destination. Wanderer combines aroma therapy and a calming audio-visual environment as two forms of anxiety treatment.

User Experience

Ideally our users will mount the device at the on-set of a panic attack or as a preventative measure after sitting down on the train/bus. Since Wanderer is a VR experience on the go, we designed the project for Daydream portability and comfort in mind. Manisha devised the scent head mount attachment to be as light weight as possible with changeable parts for the scent beads. It is fastened with a headband around the tip of the Daydream HMD with the scent beads located near the user's nose. Locomotion is a very large design challenge in the virtual reality development community. Moving the user in a virtual space needs to mimic or trick their physical movement or lack there of. The hot air balloon ride we provide moves with the user through the phone's accelerometer and GPS information in hopes of limiting nausea. The user is also placed inside the balloon basket with some stationary objects to limit inner ear confusion and mimic the feeling of travel. Since commutes can be lengthy, the user is able to interact with the environment by blowing bubbles using the Daydream Controller.

Impact

For someone who suffers with anxiety in cars, trains, buses, etc. Wanderer allows them to find comfort on their journey. For all users of public transit this provides a possible escape from dark subways and old train advertisements. This project is unique in that it challenges virtual reality design for users in transit, and can hopefully inspire other projects that work to improve user experience in public transit.

How it's Made

Wanderer is made with love and Unity. The Unity scene is a basic endless runner idea but generates terrain in the projected path of the user. The motion path and velocity is tracked with a mixture of the phone's gyroscope, accelerometer, and GPS location. Aroma therapy is triggered via an Arduino Mini Pro sewn to a headband attached to the headset viewer. The scent is contained in small beads that are gently heated to release the smell to the user.

Innovation

Wanderer also explores the use of scent to build more immersive experiences in virtual reality; a utility with little exploration. It also tests a new idea for locomotion in motion in virtual reality which is only possible with mobile VR at this time.

Collaboration

The team met each other for the first time at the Reality Virtually Hackathon, where only 2 of the 5 members had previous experience designing for virtual reality. Together they learned the new platform of Daydream. :) Bringing scent into the project was the efforts of Manisha. Thankfully Orhan also has a background in hardware and was able to help finalize the scent device. Wiley and Caitlin worked with Unity before, but Orhan and Peter learned over the weekend and kicked butt. Peter has a background in audio design and worked on music and tag teamed aesthetics with Caitlin who did the environment modeling and design. Wiley magically made the terrain and all the game pieces play nicely together.

Aesthetic

We can proudly say all our art was made during the hackathon and we didn't download any textures or models.The team agreed to stick to a simple low poly design to make the most our time and experience. Even though art normally doesn't matter at hackathons, our experience deeply relies on creating another world for the user to escape. So we spent some serious time making the environment art, audio, and scents work together. Since we are developing for mobile VR low poly worked better for our needs.

Design Flaws and Challenges

Making the GPS and accelerometer and gyroscope play nicely and give accurate feedback was a struggle. Something we are still working on fixing with the help of mentors. The original material used to create the scent beads dissolved with alcohol, although Manisha was constantly looking for the hardware needed to implement a reliable system to execute so we switched to a different material and mechanism to allow the scent to release.

Next Steps

Get the terrain generation working to scope with the projected user path and making the scents execute on trigger from Unity.

Thank you!

This wouldn't have been possible without the guidance, coffee, hardware, and ninja help of the Reality Virtually Hackathon Team, Sponsors, and Volunteers. With special thanks to Chuck, Nigel, and Dylan.

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