Project Context Master Course: Designing Interactive Experiences
Roles User interaction, Unity development, Video montage
Challenge The first lockdown of the COVID-19 pandemic caused many to yearn for intimate contact with the loved ones they were separated from. The focus of our team of six students was on an experience that could be enjoyed from home without gathering physically.
Result We developed a VR stargazing Android app for duos that want to share some intimate time with their loved ones they are separated from (because of COVID-19). Our project was a finalist for the title of ‘VPRO Tegenlicht 2020 Pioneer’ (Dutch) and was featured by VPRO Tegenlicht in their documentary (Dutch).
During the height of the coronavirus pandemic, we had to keep distance from our loved ones. Fortunately, we could still talk to the people that we love and share time with them while being apart, but there were some elements missing. You do not feel like you are actually close to the other as it is still clear you are in separate rooms. There is no immersion into the shared experience with a regular video call. Thus, making it hard to have real intimacy in such a limited digital space. Especially in Covid times, people could use some mental comfort in those trying times. So, the question we asked for our experience was: “How can we create the feeling of intimacy in a shared experience, while both participants are not in the same physical environment?”
Our designed system addresses the problem of intimacy at a distance in a number of ways. One of them is the fact that we create a specific environment for people in which you could ‘normally’ do an intimate experience, namely stargazing. Next to this, we leave freedom to our users to fill in their moment together by not forcing them through different steps but giving suggestions. Moreover, we incorporate the body as a whole as well as their current environment to recreate the stargazing environment as realistic as possible instead of throwing them into a virtual environment (and feeling that they are somewhere else but not any closer to their partner).
My focus for the development was on making the networking work in Unity, so we could connect two users that were in different spaces. In the following video I go a bit deeper into the related theory and my addition to the project:
After the suggestion of our professor, we joined the competition for ‘Pioneer 2020’ of the Dutch TV show VPRO Tegenlicht. Together with 3 other teams, we made it to the finals, in which I acted as our team’s spokesperson. Unfortunately, we didn’t manage to win the final prize. In January 2021, the project was also featured in a documentary of VPRO Tegenlicht and an article accompanying the documentary.