We created virtual reality prototypes that enable the public to experience and learn about the places that Zika-infected mosquitoes live as well as effective Zika prevention techniques. The virtual reality software generates a similar-to-real-world environment, increasing learning retention and emotional impact on the user.
WHO estimated that by the end of the year, 4 million people will be infected with Zika. With Zika spreading more widely and infecting more people around the world, it is crucial for our communities to take active roles in learning about the causes and protection techniques of Zika.
I am with a team of 6 people (CDC employee, engineers, community expert, UX specialist). Over the weekend of National Day of Civic Hacking hosted by Code for San Francisco, we took on the challenge of engaging communities in order to combat the Zika virus.
Concept- helping communities learn about Zika by creating a vivid experience of the causes and prevention of Zika in virtual reality
After interviewing experts on the team and brainstorming, we settled on the idea that the most powerful way of engaging communities is to help them learn through a vivid experience. While it is difficult to create a Zika-mosquito-active environment for community members to explore and learn without exposing them to the risks, it is possible to create such environments in the virtual reality (VR) world.
The concept we prototyped is to generate VR experiences that are related to the causes and prevention of Zika, and we accomplished this with Google Cardboard. This is currently the most affordable VR platform at $15. We intend to place google cardboards at the airport, in the library, and in public spaces for people to experience in the generated VR world what it is like to be in environments where Zika mosquitoes are active, and what to do to prevent mosquito bites in Zika-active environments.
Prototyping: VR experience of being in environments where Zika-infected mosquito are active
We created two sets of prototypes, focusing on ‘causes’ and ‘prevention’ separately. In our prototype focusing on ‘causes’, we created the VR experience of being in environments where Zika mosquitoes are active, such as construction sites, garage with old furniture and garbage, and standing water. We also made sure the experiences occurred in the morning, which is the time that the mosquitoes that carry Zika viruses are active. We labeled the specific places in these environments where mosquitoes like to be in, and reminded people to avoid those places and to use prevention techniques.
Prototyping: VR experience of using preventive techniques
In our prototype focusing on ‘prevention techniques’, we created the VR experience of sleeping under a bed net, looking out to the yard with screens on, and using mosquito sprays. We wanted to enable people to experience using prevention techniques visually, get them feel comfortable to the unfamiliar techniques, and eventually implement prevention techniques.
We tested out our early prototypes at the event and received positive feedback about the idea. Our next steps include iterating on prototype development based on the feedback received, crowdsourcing images of Zika active environments, and testing our prototypes on-site