Emergent Virtues @ WIAD LA 2018
An AR experience that explores the virtues we must cultivate to create a future that works for everyone.
As producer of World Information Architecture Day (WIAD) and a member of the VR/AR community, I had a commitment to bring the two communities closer together. At the time, there was little talk about these technologies in the design community and a big opportunity for UX in the VR/AR space. It was an opportunity to experiment with augmented reality and stimulate a discussion within the design community about the impact of emerging technologies.
WIAD is a worldwide 1-day conference dedicated to the empowerment of local design leaders. It celebrates the global growth of information architecture as a community and is jointly produced by a network of global, regional, and local volunteers.
We were experimenting with a new technology for a public event to an audience that had very little familiarity with the technology. The development team was equally unfamiliar working with UX. It was both an opportunity for growth, learnings and a rewarding challenge to accept the risk of being on the leading edge.
Everyone involved was contributing their time as a volunteer.
We had a team of vibrant volunteers from the UX community, many of whom had worked together on various other community events including previous years’ World IA Day. It was important to me that there was cohesion and relatedness and therefor we had several in-person meetings. Otherwise, the team worked remotely with regular semi-weekly calls.
A need to connect
Emergent Virtues grew out of the desire to create a networking activity that would supercharge the connections within, and between, the communities--with the added intention of sparking dialogue around the responsibility of designing for exponential technologies.
A key goal for Emergent Virtues was to cross pollinate the UX design community with the AR/VR creator community--to bring the technology to the designers and the designers to the technology creators.
A Vision for the Future
The intention beneath Emergent Virtues was very much inspired by my participation with Digital Raign at the Exponential Humanities Summits at Esalen.
Digital Raign’s commitment is to empower the experience revolution by focusing on the intersection of emerging technology, social impact and consciousness.
To give people a sense of ownership, the work was divided into 12 key roles and each team member leader was encouraged to build and lead a sub-team around their domain. A key ingredient to any successful team, open communication, was always encouraged. It was great to see the team come together to support each other when times were challenging and develop as leaders.
A key component to the day was the collaboration with 6 external Designers / Technical Artists and two developers to create the AR component “Emerging Virtues”. They also would form the closing panel.
The mobile app was designed with the intention for participants to ponder questions such as: What unintended consequences could come from the proliferation of AR and VR? What responsibilities do we have to ourselves, each other, and the world, as designers, students, and stewards of these exponential technologies? These would be the topic of the closing panel.
Krys Blackwood Senior Lead UX Designer NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Jeremy Bristol Director of UX, Los Angeles EPAM Systems
Robert Hernandez Associate Professor USC Annenberg School for Journalism
Curiosity and Grit
Martha Mendizabel Co-Founder TecnoLatinx XR Lab
Aakash Shah Creative Technologist AECOM
Pete Markiewicz Designer and Teacher
A core goal of this project was to advance design leadership in the emerging technology community. It was a call for designers to envision a shared future with deliberation and intention--one where designers, technologists, researchers, and builders would learn to work interdependently to shape a hopeful future.
Throughout the collaboration I lead several conference calls to guide the artists through the technical process of preparing their data, and more importantly to think about their own impact working with emerging technologies and the message they wanted to impart to our audience.
My primary role was to support the 12 core leaders with the essential event details and secondly to direct the creative on “Emergent Virtues”.
Working closely with the external development team, the collaborating artists and our “in-house” graphic design volunteer, I oversaw the production work-flow to assure the realization of the vision and that the development team had what they needed to build the app.
As the one with the vision for the project, I created the initial wire frames. I felt one area where VR and AR were not succeeding was the on-boarding process, so even though the ‘play’ itself was very simple, we created four on-boarding screens explicitly walking the user through the experience.
Visual design and illustration was done by WIAD’s visual designer. Our time-line was tight and there were many other design responsibilities that included event signage, posters, goodie bag labels, speaker cards, etc. Fine details such as aligning the object icons in the digital wallet with the actual object was a luxury we did not have. Simple line illustrations and stock icons were all that we needed.
Asset Creation and AR Preparation
The artists worked in collaboration with the developer to convert their objects into the glTF format required by the AR application. A simple A-frame script was prepared by the developers on the Glitch platform. Here the artists could view, orient, and preform simple transformations on their objects. It allowed them to test their assigned QR codes and see their object in augmented reality.
Chris Giles was on stage at the In Flux Reality Mixer talking about his heart science work with Empact Labs and his commitment to the decentralization of technology. I knew he was the right guy for the project and he was a fast YES!
It turned out he and his partner already had a platform to gamify AR experiences. It was a great match and a win-win for everyone.
Why A-Frame & WebXR?
Anyone with a laptop, Mac or PC can experience webXR built with A-Frame--one experience across all devices: phones, computers, and headsets. It maximizes accessibility, responsiveness, and compatibility.
In fact, you can download the QR codes here and play with the Glitch testing environment on any device. Once the site loads, display the QR codes in front of the device's camera to see the Emergent Virtues.
Why a Decentralized Solution?
Decentralized technology, or blockchain, is core to DLUX’s philosophy and business model. This one-day application had no need for the added security but it was too difficult to exclude from their existing platform. Although it created a big hurdle in regards to the user experience, we needed to be flexible and use it as a learning opportunity. It became clear to everyone in the room how badly UX is needed for emerging technology.
It was challenging to play both roles and my primary focus went to the core event production team. Relying too heavily on my confidence in the external development team, a fully fleshed out prototype slipped through the cracks. Up until 4am the day-of the event, only the developers had seen the application in its final form. Needless to say, there were some hurdles at the live event.
After all the fun of planning; late nights coordinating details, people, schedules and deliverables; the artists collaborating to get their assets built and AR ready; designing and then building the final application... It was time to go live!
Each badge received a QR code that was associated with one of the six virtues. The participants would meet new people to scan each other’s badges in search of activating the associated object that represented a virtue. The goal was to inspire conversation, connect and collect all 6 virtues to be eligible for our give aways.
It’s good to think of the early use of technology as experimental and this was a great learning experience. We did have a 33% success rate for participation. Those who were truly interested in the technology jumped the necessary hurdles. Others maybe weren’t interested or just became curious.
The panelists were deeply engaging and those that stuck it out to the end of the day were invigorated by this closing event. The discussion opened up a dialog between the technology and the design communities. New connections were made and ideas sprung into being.
On the day of the event it seemed like there were 100 things that went wrong, and an equal number of opportunities for professional and personal growth. Had I better divided my time, “Emergent Virtues” would have had more upfront development and test time; and less trouble shooting the day-of the event. Never the less, I had put together a solid and professional team that under stress was able to improvise and get the job done. Our solid plan and tight team coordination triumphed over adversity.
Intrigue about AR (and block-chain) was created, and ironically, the case for UX in emerging technology was made especially clear from the block-chain enabled sign-on. Even so, the “Emergent Virtues” mobile app succeeded with a 33% participation rate. The accompanying panel at the end of the day was a brilliant success, leaving the audience inspired and the intended relationships between the communities emerging.