A VR hang gliding experience created for Energy Upgrade CA to help people understand how their everyday decisions impact the environment and how small, easy changes to water and energy usage can make a difference. Users pedal on a stationary bike, while virtually flying across California in the Oculus headset.
Role: Layout Design, App UI, UX.
Project Launch: April 2016
Software: Illustrator, Photoshop.
Hardware: Oculus Rift
Project Duration: 5 Weeks
With the velocity of the pedaling, which controls the altitude of the glider, users answer a series of yes or no questions. The faster the user pedals, the higher the fly. Every question relates to energy usage, and if the user indicates that he or she isn't saving energy, each of landscape (redwoods, farmlands, coastal city) deteriorates to visually show the impact of their lifestyle on the California environment. The landscapes also improve for the opposite answers.
It's easy to become disoriented in virtual environments, especially when appearing to fly across California. But it's important to keep the user grounded and help them perceive their environment and physical size in the world. The 3D landscapes allow the user to have plenty of reference points, so that the user can understand their surroundings.
While it was clear from the beginning of the project that the user was going to make decisions with the bike pedals, how they were going to be presented with the questions and understand how to answer them was a design challenge. In the end, we found that placing the UI as a 3D object/display on the hang glider itself created the most integrated experience. In VR, if an object is closer to the user, it indicates you can pick it up and/or interact with it. Even though the altimeter is attached to the right side of the glider, my team made sure to keep it in the visible zone around 1-2 meters from the user and available in the comfortable range of motion. The altimeter displayed the altitude, but it also showed that if they rose higher they would answer yes or if they dipped lower the answer would be no.
For each landscape, an LCD panel slid out from the altimeter and displayed the questions and timer. These design decisions allowed the user to focus on flying through the beautifully rendered 3D environments and the consequences of their lifestyle. The UI was only displayed to aid and guide the user when necessary.
Other design decisions that were made for a good VR experience included grounding the user with a fixed object / point of reference, which in this case was the hang glider. Background music, sound effects, and a helpful voice-over from the Energy Upgrade bear, that users might recognize from their commercials. The 3 minute ride is followed by a registration process where guests can send email themselves a selfie of their experience.