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Mortal(IT)y VR [Updated July 31 - Updates Bolded]

Virtual Reality can be used as an archival tool to capture meaningful moments and thereby, our legacy.

Photo of Jamie Whittaker
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Who is your idea designed for and how does it reimagine the end-of-life experience?

This idea is designed for anyone who wants to increase their mortality awareness by consciously archiving their legacy. We hope that this will deepen relationships and experiences in life and result in decreased unfinished business at death. It's also for passing down wisdom to future generations who could interact with their ancestor's legacy in a meaningful way.

[Updated July 23, 2016] Added Prototype Worksheet attachment and revised User Experience Map

[UPDATED July 31, 2016] The needs this idea is trying to address are:

  • Actively creating and capturing meaningful moments in order to live more fully and as a result, reduce unfinished business at death
  • Providing opportunities to reflect on mortality throughout life in order to increase a level of comfort with impermanence to help increase death acceptance and grief literacy
  • Deepening relationship with self, loved ones, community, earth, ancestors and future generations
  • Connecting wisdom from past generations to future generations by passing down wisdom, stories and life lessons
  • Creating ways to stay connected with loved ones after death in a healthy way
  • Utilizing the novelty of VR technology to engage younger generations who might not otherwise contemplate their mortality
  • Capitalizing on the fact that VR provides an embodied experience that encourages active and profound engagement


[UPDATED July 31, 2016] Value offering:

Mortal(IT)y VR is a tool to encourage a death awareness practice to enhance experiences and deepen relationships while we live so we can decrease feelings of unfinished business at death. Engaging in mindful legacy creation can capture meaningful moments to serve as an immersive legacy for future generations to interact with in a VR environment.


[UPDATED July 17, 2016] User Experience Map (or see attachment above comments section)


[UPDATED July 31, 2016] What we learned from the prototype (we got 20 responses to our survey- attached below):

The prototype reinforced that people need to have the ability to customize their experience (for example: scheduling frequency, choosing their questions, etc.). We also learned that it's difficult for people who haven't directly experienced VR, to fully understand its value. Therefore, we will have a Google Cardboard with us for demo purposes when discussing VR with future clients. 

We will actively incorporate a customizable mindfulness practice and VR legacy capturing in the Ethical Will module of our Crows in a Row end-of-life planning program. We will explore the possibility of having a 360 camera, like the Theta, available for our clients to rent. They could capture moments while they work through the content so they would finish the program with a start to their VR legacy and the knowledge of how to continue adding to it.

Most importantly, the prototype helped to solidify our intention with this project. We want people to be mindful of impermanence to enhance how they live and therefore reduce unfinished business at death. Curating a legacy in VR  is one tool for achieving this and the benefits of this practice are magnified when clients do this as part of our larger offering (our end-of-life planning program and the death cafes we host). We aren't trying to appeal to the masses because the majority of people aren't open to contemplating their morality because that brings up grief. However, we see incredible value in that. Our value statement has now evolved:

We help people explore the deep relationship between grief and growth by planning for death.  When it is our turn to die, or to stand alongside death, this work enables us to be present, to learn, and to love instead of avoiding, being fearful, and having unfinished business.  In this moment, now, this work enables us to glimpse the fullness of life.

Next steps (which we welcome help on):

  • Fully incorporate the customizable mindfulness practice and the VR legacy curation  into our existing Crows in a Row End-of-Life Planning Program
  • Web development and app development
  • Explore ways to reach target market clients
  • Explore partnerships with like minded people 
  • Explore partnerships with potential sponsors

Thank you OpenIDEO and everyone in this incredible community. We have learned, grown, and transformed through this process. We have been inspired and amazed by the work being done on this platform and we can't wait to see the impact of the hard work and heart that have gone into every project. Thank you. 

[Original Content begins here:]

Virtual Reality (VR) is an emerging technology that will be used as an archival tool to capture meaningful moments and thereby, the legacy of our loved ones for the purpose of passing down stories, traditions and wisdom to future generations. By using various technologies to capture a snapshot (or multiple snapshots) of a person or place, we can allow users to explore the past and embrace the future. This process can heighten our appreciation for impermanence and lead to a more death-conscious and grief-skilled society that will enable us to provide a better end-of-life experience.

Mortal(IT)y is a project that integrates our current and developing efforts in:

  • VR
  • Photogrammetric Capturing
  • Voice, social and story archiving
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI)
  • Open source models
  • End-of-life care practices
  • Death literacy and grief skills

VR will allow us to interact with an archived version of a person and meaningful environments (family home, vacation spots, etc.). The 3D environment and physical scans will be captured using a Photogrammetric Capturing process. Voice, social and story archiving will capture the essence of participants and their experiences. Eventually our goal will be to combine the physical scan, voice, social and story archive with AI technology to create a virtual version of a loved one.  

The archival process encourages self-discovery, awareness of impermanence, and the deepening of relationships through a desire to stay connected to family, friends and future generations. After a loved one's death, the ability to interact with their archived legacy provides the gifts of reliving memorable moments, receiving wisdom and life lessons, and being supported through grief.

Overall this will create a better end-of-life experience through enhanced:

  • means for bearing witness
  • ethical wills (passing down wisdom and life lessons)
  • opportunities for multi-generational legacies
  • ideas for ceremony
  • evolving stories of ancestral lineage
  • integration of death awareness throughout life

The goal is to research the possibilities of using an open source model to enable the world to archive individuals, environments, stories and events using various cutting edge technologies for use before, during, and after death care. It could impact those living, dying, and grieving to achieve better relationships with ourselves, our loved ones, our future generations, and our ancestors.

Imagine future generations, not only hearing the story of a transformative event in your life, but virtually interacting with your legacy in the VR environment. This is not an attempt to achieve virtual immortality, rather it is an opportunity to embrace (and be enriched by) our actual mortality.

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

Starting or enhancing a current gratitude/mindfulness practice to get an idea of experiences, lessons, etc. that could be uploaded to a VR environment. The goal is to consciously extract meaning from situations in order to fully appreciate those moments in life and to deliberately determine which experiences to relieve at the end of life and to pass down to future generations.

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

We will continue to incorporate this mindfulness practice/legacy capturing into our current end of life planning work in the Ethical Will module.
We would like any support and/or input on creating an app to facilitate this for our current clients. We would also welcome help on web development.
We would like to explore potential partnerships that could help extend the reach to more clients.

Tell us about your work experience:

Janine Violini and Jamie Whittaker work in end-of-life pre-planning: http://www.crowsinarow.com/#intro
Matt Wright is Chief Experience Officer and Founder of Mammoth VR: http://www.mammothvr.com/

This idea emerged from

  • A group brainstorm

71 comments

Join the conversation:

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Photo of David Tang
Team

I'd like if family didn't have to do dishes everyday! Have everything to be automated. Been like that for whole lifetime! Come to think of it, I'd wish I hadn't dropped out of instrumentation, but oh well. The choice made.

Photo of Paul Ennis
Team

Jamie - This project is quite intriguing. I don't know enough about the generation/creation of VR content to have an opinion in relation to that part of things, i.e. - logistics, user-friendliness, folks' ability to record/create digital legacy portraits, etc. What I like is the way you approach the psychological, the human emotional piece, the in-the-moment acceptance of our mortality, which will necessarily lead to a better relationship with this thing we all call life/living. Keep up the good work as the Challenge continues to unfold. Best. - Paul Ennis

Photo of Dov Sugarman
Team

I absolutely love this concept. We have discussed some similar directions internally at https://www.safebeyond.com/. We know that people need tools and assistance that will make content creation less threatening and even more fun. We think that AR and AI can be put to service sensitively and intelligently in this context to enable a very rich and even interactive mult-generational conversation. I would love to speak and see if we can collaborate.

Photo of Jamie Whittaker
Team

Hi Dov Sugarman,
Thank you for your message. We've been impressed with the work that you're doing at Safe Beyond and we refer our end-of-life planning clients to your site! We are excited about the new partnership Safe Beyond has made with Family Search. Integrating genealogy into the work you're already doing is fantastic! We would love to speak further about the possibility of collaborating!

Photo of Dov Sugarman
Team

Hi Jamie Whittaker 
Lets definitely schedule a call. My email is dovs@safebeyond.com.
Looking forward to hearing from you.
Dov

Photo of Dov Sugarman
Team

Hi Jamie Whittaker 
Lets definitely schedule a call. My email is dovs@safebeyond.com.
Looking forward to hearing from you.
Dov

Photo of Gary Skeete
Team

 The conceptualization of virtual reality with the aspect of resuscitation in that the virtual reality construct can be used with augmented reality to perceive photons pixels DNA RNA reproductive biology seedlings physiology of foodstuffs  H2O and the reality of constructed reality from virtual reality but is elements and material items from virtual reality to a reality construct to permit the usage of animated sequences to reality reanimation  the aspect of creating a space in calligraphy holographs holograms to create the quick scenario for rebirth reconstruction 

Photo of Jamie Whittaker
Team

Wow Gary Skeete! It would be powerful to experience DNA replication in an immersive environment and to interact with elements in an active way...thank you for mentioning this very interesting idea! Fascinating!

Photo of Gary Skeete
Team

Immersive multiple meanings  1. Implementing the Casimer Effect

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Superman

Enveloped in a hologram that is supportive the object of desired effect is lifted from the ground and elevated kept afloat and directed by body posturing the self activating holographic elevating levitation device HELD is considered functional

What type of R/D in pharmaceuticals would support weight in a enveloped hologram and teleportation and maintenance of oxygen body fluids temperature stresses flexibility cognition response reflexes

Casimir effect in water cell age reversal pollution drainage between two metal plates effect on cheat clothing for example in swimming pool.

Photo of Gary Skeete
Team

Document located in dojo rules for virtual reality adaptation

https://github.com/garyskeete

Photo of Kenneth Walton
Team

Jamie,
Thanks for adding me to the team, I look forward to some collaborating. I am heading out to SIGGRAPH next week there should be a ton of VR information there. I will keep the concept in mind and pick up and send whatever materials I can find that could be useful. Have you seen Kubity  VR? This could be a great tool for prototyping if the need should arise. https://vimeo.com/154290535 free works inside of SketchUp which is also free http://www.sketchup.com/.

 I look forward to the next phase!
Kenny

Photo of Jamie Whittaker
Team

Hi Kenny,
We're grateful to have you on the team! Wow, SIGGRAPH looks like it will be full of relevant information and we're really looking forward to hearing about it upon your return! Thanks for keeping an eye out for anything that could be useful! I hadn't seen Kubity VR or sketchup - they both look really cool and this will be helpful as we think of ways to prototype the more technological side of the project. Thank you!!! We can't wait to see what you come back from the conference with. We're excited to collaborate!

Photo of gokul narasimhan
Team

I had the same idea and had published it too! Good that this idea is selected and hope this comes true! Wishing the team a very best! 

https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/end-of-life/ideas/leveraging-technology-to-create-the-satisfaction-of-a-fulfilled-life-before-the-ultimatum

Photo of Jamie Whittaker
Team

Hello gokul narasimhan! We're definitely on the same path! Would you like to join our team? We would be happy to get your feedback and have you participate.

Photo of gokul narasimhan
Team

Yeah! Sure, why not! I would be glad to contribute to this cause! :) 

Photo of Jamie Whittaker
Team

Welcome to the team!

Photo of gokul narasimhan
Team

Thank you! 

Photo of Chris Lee
Team

Hi Jamie,

This is a really interesting idea. Reading through the comments and ideas, I find two thoughts fighting in my head:
- it would be great to have immersive, high fidelity ways of experiencing our past and treasured moments.
- part of the process of dying (for the living) is letting go. Having something that is "too real" or "reanimated" with AI seems to ask us to hold on to the deceased which, I think, would hinder the process of healing.

Have you thought about this tension? It almost feels like you want the VR, post-death, to have some kind of surreal aspect to it. Blurred at the edges. Partial. Undersaturated. Things that remind you this is something else, some time in the past. To be viewed, but not as real. 
Kind of a strange conclusion for a virtual REALITY project. :)

Photo of Gabriel Landowski
Team

I think for me the idea is that someone I respected or cared about made an impact on my life and I share that with others through my actions. So I was thinking the approach is less about replicating the deceased (which would be kind of freaky) and more about capturing the essence of their contribution. 

For example, maybe I want to learn something about relationships. Ideally I could go into a discussion group (search) and interact by asking my question(s). Ideally if there was a sort of IBM Watson type logic behind the searching engine I could get a variety of initial replies back through which I could sift until I thought I had my answer. VR comes in to the mix by allowing me to interact with the query in a more natural way.

Example: I want to know about my great grandfather who served in the Civil War. My grandfather knew a lot of stories that had been told to him when he was growing up, and I am sure I did not hear the length of them. So I could enter VR, interact with my desired interface experience (solid, etheral, symbol, audio) and ask my questions via verbal, typing, etc. I would see indications of multiple "hits" and I could select them in turn (audio, physical) and see what each experience snippet brought forth.

The real issue is how do you get our experiences into the machine, and the obvious questions of validity of what was said (facts vs opinions vs straight out untruths). For me I know that the VR will never be my grandfather, but it would be great to watch a 12 year old interact with his persona and listen to this child learn about flight and flying.

Photo of Jamie Whittaker
Team

Hi Chris,

Thank you for your thoughts and for bringing up the topic of "letting go." We have seriously considered this and our intention with this project is not to preserve our loved ones so we don't have to mourn them. There is healing in grief and you are right that holding on could hinder that healing process. I'll answer this by considering how our project could have an impact during life and after death:

1. During Life: hopefully, developing a consistent practice of acknowledging our mortality (which can be done in a tangible way through the process of capturing meaningful moments) could foster a better relationship with impermanence which could lead to being less inclined to hold on to a loved one after death in an unhealthy way. We feel that this could potentially address the root of the problem instead of treating symptoms that emerge from a death-phobic society.

Having a healthy awareness of death throughout life can be a catalyst to live as conscious meaning-makers. Perhaps there will be less of a need to "hold on" when we feel we have told a loved one exactly how much they have meant to us and when we have lived moments together in full appreciation of each other (as opposed to deaths where there is unfinished business). Our purpose is to contribute to the building of a more death-positive and grief-literate society that we hope will help people mourn and heal instead of holding on. That way, the act of curating a legacy in VR is not done with the intention of holding on (or being held on to) but instead, is about passing down traditions and wisdom to future generations.

2. After Death: there seems to be a very fine balance between letting go and staying connected. You make a great point about creating a VR experience with "some kind of surreal aspect to it." The beauty of this project is that it could all be completely personalized. The VR experiences I've had included an element of the surreal in each and I think we would encourage anyone we worked with to be very aware of how an experience that is "too real" might impact healing.
VR is really a modern extension of the current experience of watching videos of someone after they have died, although we need to be aware of how an interactive environment could change the dynamic. As much as we want to capture a snapshot of reality, it's all about emphasizing the virtual nature of it. I think that's the beauty of VR. :)

I'm interested to hear your thoughts on this, Chris! Do you think it's a feasible hope that turning our awareness to our mortality throughout life could help mediate a need to hold on? Do you think that VR is just the next step after video and therefore, we will be able to appreciate it's virtual-ness and engage in it as something that is surreal?

Thank you for posing these great questions! I hope that others comment with their perspectives. 

Photo of Chris Lee
Team

Hi Jamie,

I agree with your intent and for the need to build a different narrative for one's relationship with living and with death. I'm a big fan of Joseph Campbell and his observation that the really important part to living a well adjusted life is to have a story that contextualizes your experience in way that makes it tolerable / meaningful - those are what myths do.
But myths are just stories and stories need to be told.
I can see where VR could be a powerful story telling medium.
I would love to see the idea focus on the story the medium is trying to tell and how it can be ideally suited to the specifics of that story. I see you have a lot of hopes for normalizing our view of death by using VR. Those hopes seem to require a leap of faith that people start using the tools for that purpose. What would need to change about peoples' thinking to begin to use VR (or any other medium) in a way consistent with your hopes? How would those changes be incorporated into this idea to make them deliberate and directed?

Photo of Janine
Team

Hi Chris,

I am a colleague of Jamie and Matt. You articulated my fears exactly. It seems inevitable that VR will be the next evolution of media for storytelling (I am a big fan of Joseph Campbell as well).

My worst fear is that this tool could be used to increase death-denial in our culture. If we're able to incorporate VR in these early stages of the death revolution, we might be able to stay ahead of the misuse of the tool.  Our hope instead is to use the technology to teach death awareness and grief literacy. (See message from Jamie about how we plan to incorporate the use of the tool.)

Photo of Jamie Whittaker
Team

Great thoughts Chris! You're correct in saying that it's a big leap to go from using VR to full on death acceptance. Your question brings up a great point that we can't rely solely on VR to shift a way of thinking about death that is deeply ingrained.

We haven't really mentioned our other work yet and how it relates to this project, but your question shows the need to discuss the fact that VR alone isn't going to create the shift. Here's what we're currently doing, that we hope VR can enhance (specifically by helping to reach a larger audience and a more diverse demographic:)
Janine and I work in end of life pre-planning:  http://www.crowsinarow.com/#intro (our website is bare bones and currently being re-vamped).

We are also actively trying to normalize death by being part of a local and global community of people attempting to raise death awareness. In our city we:
- Host Death Café (for 2 years now): http://deathcafe.com/deathcafe/3440/ (we had one today that packed the café!)
- Participate in The Calgary Holistic Death Network: http://soulpassages.ca/holistic-death-network/
- Participate in Sarah Kerr's Death Midwifery Workshops: http://soulpassages.ca/ritual-healing-skills/

We are so happy to belong to a community of people moving the idea of normalizing death forward. VR would be another tool to add to the list. Furthermore, there are so many existing resources for thinking about our mortality in meaningful ways and VR can take that even further by making that an immersive sensory experience rather than a theoretical one.

There are SO many possible uses for VR in terms of re-imagining end of life experiences, that it gets hard to narrow it down. This OpenIDEO Challenge has been great in helping to uncover a multitude of potential applications, the most important of which could be living fully.

We agree with your assessments and thank you for posing questions that expand the discussion! As Janine said, we can see VR being used in unhealthy ways to further a denial of death so we are extremely motivated to offer an alternative to what might be the default for this society. All we can do, is suggest a direction for those who are looking to walk a path of meaning. The suggestion is to engage in deliberate and directed mindfulness of our mortality. This suggested use of one way of using VR , will hopefully influence a user's ability to open to new ways of integrating death awareness into living with meaning. 

Story, death, VR, and future AI, seem like a perfect fit for brining us back into right relationship with one another, our communities, and ourselves. Janine's reply to Becky, gives examples of how the medium can be used to enhance the story.

Photo of Chris Lee
Team

Thanks for sharing the links Jamie.
Those provide great context for the specific question you're asking in this idea posting.
With that background in place, I am left with this question:
- Is the VR idea about learning how to better engage the people who are already seeking the services these sites provide or 
- Is this about using VR to broaden the appeal of the ideas behind these services?

If it is the former, is there really a need? What are the shortcoming in the tool set these people have today which VR is a natural answer to?
If it is the latter, it sounds like a recruitment problem more than a technology problem: how do you get people to care about something that they otherwise don't care about? Why would VR, in itself, cause engagement?

Photo of Jamie Whittaker
Team

Hi Chris,
Thank you for asking questions that get our brains working hard! Your perspective has been valuable to us and has forced us to stretch our thinking in interesting ways. To answer your questions:

1. Is the VR idea about learning how to better engage the people who are already seeking [existing] services?
Answer: Yes. We work with clients for about six weeks in our end-of-life planning program and although they can always contact us, the motivation to consistently curate a legacy is a way to keep them engaged in an enduring way that is independent of us. Could this be done without VR? Yes. Then why have chosen this avenue? Because we believe that VR will replace video in the near future and we would like to be ahead of that curve (while realizing that we may be wrong about that). Even if we're wrong, nothing is lost- all of that archived material can still be used, just not in a VR environment (if it doesn't take off the way we think it will).
The current shortcomings of VR are: that adoption isn't widespread, content creation isn't as simple as it could be, gear is expensive -$5k for a GoPro Omni. However,  based on the research we've done and the trends we're seeing, we believe this will all be drastically decreased in the next four to five years. The archiving of the experiences, stories, thoughts, etc. doesn't have to wait until then, though. That can all be captured now and then uploaded into a VR environment once the technology becomes more widespread and accessible.

2. a) Is this about using VR to broaden the appeal of the ideas behind these services?
Answer- yes (somewhat). In our Crows in a Row end-of-life planning work, we aren't trying to convince anyone to engage in what we do. However, we are noticing that simply by talking about this project, more and more millennials are expressing interest in working with us. For example, Janine and I used to teach in post-secondary and we still keep in touch with many former students. They all know about our Crows in a Row work but it's only now that we've added this VR element that some of them are reaching out and saying that they are interested in planning for the end-of-life, in part by curating a legacy for a VR environment. We weren't attempting to broaden the appeal of our work, but it happened anyway! I think the novelty of the technology brings attention to the topic it's attached to - in this case: end-of-life planning. These are two somewhat unconventional  and seemingly unrelated topics (VR and death) and that makes some people curious who may not have otherwise been. Maybe the technological element is a way to start the conversation with someone who might be closed off from dialogue directly related to the very organic, biological and human part of death that some people find too close to ponder without overwhelming fear.
Additionally, we think VR might cause engagement because of the concept discussed by Mike Wadhera who says that "the information age is over; welcome to the experience age." Instead of passively watching a video on someone's Facebook profile, it looks like there is a shift to wanting to actually "experience" it in an immersive way - which is possible through VR. Facebook acquired Oculus VR in 2004 and I can't imagine it will be that long until there will be a shift to using it on social media: https://www.facebook.com/zuck/posts/10101319050523971

Hopefully the prototype idea we are trying out (a thought experiment) will help us to get more clear on these questions you've got us pondering! Thanks Chris!

Photo of Hamish Thrum
Team

This is a great idea. A reference point which is a little out of left field is an episode of Star Trek TNG where Captain Picard ecperiences something very similar to this. But instead of a person dying it was a culture which died. Picard got to live the life of a person in this culture throughout his life before the person and the culture died. Worth a look as it has some similarities..

Photo of Jamie Whittaker
Team

Hi Hamish Thrum,
What a cool reference! Although I've never watched this show, it's a great concept that is actually so relevant to what we are trying to accomplish- archiving elements of a person's life/culture/traditions, etc. for future generations to experience. I'll have to watch that episode. Thank you for making this great link!

Photo of OpenIDEO
Team

Welcome to the refinement phase Jamie! Here are some key questions and milestones we encourage from all ideas in the Refinement:

1. How might this idea address the unique needs of the target audience you're designing for?
2. Clearly summarize the value offering of your idea in 1-2 sentences
3. Communicate your idea in a visual way with user experience maps http://ideo.pn/UX_Map
4. Identify assumptions that need to be answered in order to validate your value offering: http://bit.ly/1Oi8ZHu
5. Collect feedback from potential partners and users to answer the assumptions you’ve identified.

Lastly, here's a useful tip: When you update the content of your post, it'd be helpful to indicate this in your idea title by adding an extension. For example, you can add the extension " - Update: Experience Maps 07/12" to you idea title. This will be a good way to keep people informed about how your idea is progressing!

Photo of Becky Lee
Team

Hi Jamie, 

To bring our conversation to this page: 
Your comment on my idea made me think about how revisiting and reflecting moments of connection could create just as strong a sense of connection as the original experience. I love the idea of VR as a means to "relive" and ultimately share moments to carry on that deep feeling of connection beyond end-of-life.



My idea started out asking how might we naturally build in more and better moments of connection with loved ones during life? One thought to build on both of our ideas would be to have loved ones create archival VR snapshots together, so the creation of the legacy is an added opportunity for connection in itself. Could also help people feel more like they were a part of their loved one's legacy, in addition to being a recipient.



Some questions we could think about together: How might we capture natural moments of connection in a VR environment? How might we use VR to create more opportunities for connection? How might we design not only the means, but the motivations to both have and "relive" moments of connection?

Let's keep the conversation going!

Photo of Jamie Whittaker
Team

Becky Lee These are such thought provoking and powerful questions! Thank you for sharing them! Here are some initial thoughts that I hope others will expand on (and it would be great to hear your input as well). I'm going to answer them separately so others (anyone is welcome) can reply on each question. Thanks!

Photo of Jamie Whittaker
Team

Becky Lee , Angel Landeros , Vahid Anwari , Kenneth Walton What are your thoughts on Question 1:
How might we capture natural moments of connection in a VR environment?

There’s the potential of using existing technology like the GoPro OMNI https://vr.gopro.com/ to capture meaningful moments in particular environments. Perhaps a hike is recorded, or a portion of a family vacation, or a significant milestone like a graduation (as long as there are correct permissions in place for capturing video of groups of people). Maybe a family tradition is recorded in order to be passed down (which might make it a bit less “natural” than we would hope, but maybe someone has ideas for how to get around that.
 If someone is dying, this might be a way for them to speak directly to future generations if they wish to do so.
Alternatively, a moment of connection can be captured after the fact. This could take many forms but I’m thinking of possibly having people record the memorable events that happened for them at the end of day, or week, or month, etc. A voice recording of the story when it’s fresh in the mind could create a profound account of an experience for someone in the future to interact with (by afterwards layering on a scene of where the event took place and creating a narrated story experience with relevant visuals). That could be a way to engage in a practice of gratitude that enriches the way we live and reduces the chances of having unfinished business at death, while also teaching the value of such a practice to future generations through the modeling of this behaviour and the communication of its value.

Photo of Jamie Whittaker
Team

Becky Lee, Angel Landeros, Vahid Anwari, Kenneth Walton Thoughts on Becky's Question 2:
How might we use VR To create more opportunities for connection?

For me, the hope here is that the very act of capturing moments brings awareness to our impermanence through a consistent practice of remembering our mortality. The intentional determining of what wisdom/experiences to pass on to future generations might help us to be less inclined to take meaningful moments for granted, and as a result, to fully appreciate them while they unfold. That is just as much a gift as the actual capturing of the moments in VR.
It might also encourage families to experience new things together that they can record in the moment, or capture through recorded story telling afterwards.
Additionally, it could be a way to bring attention to the things we’ll want to remember and it could enable the sometimes difficult task of expressing our appreciation for someone. For example, I didn’t ever tell my grandma what a beautiful experience it was to make traditional Norwegian lefse with her and now I can’t. Looking back, I would have loved to ask her if I could record one of those sessions and tell her that the small act of cooking together meant so much to me that I would want to relive it throughout my life and pass that experience on to future generations. Not only would it have captured an important tradition, but it would have given me an opportunity to explicitly say how much I appreciated her. I see the archiving process as a catalyst for having meaningful conversation and for expressing how we feel about our loved ones in a structured way (when it might be difficult to free-style those conversations).
The very practice could potentially make it easier over time to come right out and say how we feel.

Photo of Jamie Whittaker
Team

Becky Lee , Angel Landeros, Vahid Anwari, Kenneth Walton Question 3 from Becky:
How might we design not only the means, but the motivations to both have and "relive" moments of connection?

There are so many possibilities for this and I think the team (and others) could really expand on it. Maybe we could leverage existing technology and means of staying connected like email, social media, apps, etc. to give us reminders to record (maybe through a voice memo) memorable events at the end of each month or season, etc.
Furthermore, a community of individuals engaging in this practice might help motivate each other to create and record memorable moments of connection with friends and family. A further level of connection could be achieved by sharing these moments with the greater community rather than just one’s own immediate social ecosystem. This could potentially create a global community of meaning makers that could transcend the already powerful concept of sharing beautiful moments with friends and family.
There are already great apps out there like The 5 Minute Journal http://app.fiveminutejournal.com/ which are fantastic for a gratitude practice. Maybe this VR project just builds on that by reviewing a month and choosing the most meaningful moments to record (in audio form) or to summarize the learning that happened throughout the month, then upload the narrative into a VR environment with corresponding images to create an immersive, interactive setting for future generations, or for the future version of you to review at a later part of your life.

Another idea is to review a month, or season, or year and package your thoughts on a loved one to "gift" to them in a VR environment. Imagine receiving a narrative told over beautiful immersive landscapes of the impact you had on someone. I would love to be able to give a friend or family member a VR experience of what they have meant to me so they can enjoy it while they live instead of saving that for their eulogy. And how beautiful would that be to be able to re-watch on the death bed- especially if people are divided by geographical distance. Being able to EXPERIENCE that in VR, as opposed to reading it on a page, or seeing in it a video, brings an exceptional and spectacular quality to it and that is exactly what my exceptional and spectacular friends and family deserve.

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Jamie,

You ask a lot of very good questions, and propose a number of excellent approaches to unique solutions. I am going to try to respond to all 3 questions in this one post. First I think we have to consider who the audience is that we are trying to reach. Are these Boomers, X’ers or Millennials? Each group will have had differnet experiences with social media. Boomers would have less experience and a smaller database; while X’ers or Millennials would likely have a much greater database of experience to choose from.
Second the VR experience needs to be in some way immersive and stereoscopic, maybe even autostereoscopic. How can we build 3D immersive environments with 2D data? Can we use a tool like Unity 3D to develop 2.5D from 2D data by setting up an orthographic camera instead of using perspective? What is the storytelling methodology that would fit this kind of experience best? Can we create templates that would allow a user to drag and drop 2d data into a scene builder that automates the story development? A Story Maker tool of some sort?
 I think that this idea is a very good concept take advantage of existing social media content (Instagram, Facebook, etc…) to capture experience and have that stored and used in the future to create VR experiences. This could best Millennial’s approach. New tech would continue to come online making the concept easier to build overtime. By the time they are older they could have a wealth of experience archives developed from social media and GoPro footage.
The Xers and Boomers need a different approach; this is the AARP crowd. Another idea you mentioned was about sending a gift of experience to the people you love over time “archiving experience”. I love this thought. I made home video of my Mom just before I lost her over 25 years ago. When I have trouble remembering what she sounded like, her expressions or her laugh I review that film. But I wish I had asked her to answer questions that I need answers to now, questions about raising my daughter, or how she dealt with problems etc…If I could talk to her, and get only a few answers if would greatly improve my spirit at times. So I think if we could use Immersive 3D to create stereo memories; digital film with a Kinect or a ZED, and synch that with Echo and Alexa with voice data, and use 3D displays to view these personal archive experience gifts, we could have a great way to deliver “Gift That Lift” when one is faced with their mortality. We would have a great product to deliver to the X’ers and Millennials. See the video for these technologies here, and how they could work together.
https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/end-of-life/ideas/her-and-his-story-on-demand

Ken

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Hi Ken,

Thanks for the great response! The questions came from Becky Lee and I agree that they are very good! I want to make sure she gets the credit for them!
I also agree that it makes a lot of sense to consider the different generations. I'm an X'er (born in 1980) with no social media so this really resonates with me. How can I (and others who also don't use social media) capture their legacy in a way to pass it down? For me, I think I'll use the data I've been collecting using The 5 Minute Journal App (which I love)! I wonder if there's a way to actively leverage awareness of an app like this to people who don't use social media. Thanks for bringing up the differences of the generations, that's definitely something important to consider!
As for the technological side, I'm going to let my colleague Matt respond since he's the VR expert. You ask fantastic questions that he'll be able to address.
Ken, your story about the video you made of your Mom is moving and beautiful and I'm so grateful you shared it. It brings up excellent questions that we could pose to our loved ones before they are gone (something that doesn't always seem to come up without some kind of catalyst). I love the title "Gifts That Lift" and I see so much value in it for multiple purposes, including embracing our mortality and deepening connections with loved ones while we are still alive.
Thank you for the link to the great video! It's wonderful to be on a team with you so we can work together on making this accessible to the masses! What do you think about an open source version that anyone could use?
 I love the ideas you posted on your submission Her and His-story On Demand about how we could experiment with this and I look forward to collaborating further on how to make it all happen!

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A notion just popped into my head on this one: let's say i know I am going to die within a reasonable certainty and shorter timeframe. This interface could be a purpose or something constructive for me to do as my health declines. It would give me an outlet to say the things I perhaps could not say in person, but also allow me to ramble on about all the topics which were of interest to me. I could even interact with folks or answer their questions so that perhaps today none of my children would ask me questions about my military service, but perhaps there is a research student across the globe who sees that I served for 15 years and they "interview" me so that those moments or recollections are recorded. Perhaps later on my children would value listening to it perhaps 20 years later, or perhaps some 17 year old gets a better understanding of what may be asked of them before they put on a uniform. 

But the main point is that it changes the nature of my demise from waiting for the inevitable into something more positive and productive - getting "me" down into the experience and taking me from a place of loneliness and despair and making it an experience where I know that people not only cared to know me but that what I said and experienced is not lost.

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This is a great idea, Gabriel. I really like how you emphasize the "positive and productive" while acknowledging the inevitable. This really highlights the fact that the idea of passing down our experiences is an important part of coming to terms with our mortality.
I think this is also really relevant to Ken's idea Her and His-story On Demand 

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Jamie Whittaker I can absolutely see the GoPro OMNI type of technology working as the new "Kodak Moment" for trips and milestones. I like the idea of recording family traditions, or even turning the act of recording into a family tradition, as an impetus for us to connect more deeply with loved ones. I think as long as the conversation and interaction and emotion is natural, the motivation and setting doesn't quite have to be.

Another question then, is how do we get people more comfortable both having and recording conversations with their loved ones. Maybe it's not about setting up "deep conversations" but giving people the tools to record many conversations, mundane as they may seem, and find their own meaning in them. Gets me thinking about how sometimes the most meaningful memories are the seemingly little ones. 

I also love your thought about creating a practice, or just creating more opportunities, for people to capture and reflect upon moments of connection after the fact. You so wonderfully articulated the value of starting a personal practice of gratitude and turning that into a tradition, I'm about to start doing it! 

So with some of these ideas, we are creating multiple meaningful moments - an original moment of connection, a reflection and/or recording of it, and then opportunities to revisit as often as you want, making them available to others as desired, rippling the effect out. 

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Yes, yes, yes! I love your example with your grandmother and this is exactly what I was imagining with my idea - how can we create catalysts for having meaningful conversations, expressing how we feel, with just enough structure to get us to actually do it. I believe that VR recording can absolutely become that catalyst. 

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I actually just made a photo book of a recent family trip for my grandmother's birthday and was thinking, how cool that would have been as VR experience! I think we can look to current modes of capturing moments (photos, recordings, etc.) to better understand the catalysts and motivations there. Even things like company impact reports - when and how do we create opportunities to capture information/moments as they are happening so that we can compile them into meaningful collections and experiences? 

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I really like the idea of cultivating a practice of gratitude, reflection, and recording, whether that includes small reminders or not. As I mentioned in another comment, I recently made a photo book as a gift and see a huge opportunity for VR to be a richer version of that as a way to honor our exceptional and spectacular friends and family, as you mention. 

I think building a broader community would be really helpful in cultivating this as a practice, though I am curious about whether making it "social" could become competitive in terms of views or most advanced techniques, etc. when the purpose is more about personal content that is meaningful to us and our loved ones. That said, personal content can also be hugely meaningful to others so I'd be interested in thinking through how we might build an inspiring community where our moments of connection are celebrated for what they are without creating a sense of competition or a fear that your "content" isn't as "good" as others. 

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Jamie Whittaker would love to join the team and contribute with a human-centered lens. 

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Wonderful! We've added you to the team and look forward to more of your fantastic insights!

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Hi Becky Lee 
I work with Jamie and Matt and wanted to share a few personal stories to continue the discussion.

1.  How to capture natural moments of connection:  My husband and I have pre-planned his funeral based on his love of food/cooking as he is a chef.  One of his greatest joys in life is the experience of sharing meals together when we travel.  We often take photos of the food when it arrives at our table in restaurants.  The photos help us engage the senses of smell and taste as part of our memory as we look back over the photos. I can only imagine how creating the archival VR snapshot together will enhance the memory even further. If I outlive him, for his "funeral", I will be joined by our loved ones at four dinners over four months where we will share the photos (and future VR recordings) of the meals he enjoyed on our travels together. Both the creation and sharing of his legacy will be opportunities for connection exactly as you have suggested.

2. VR to create more opportunities for connection:  My mom's extended family lives in Italy, and my siblings and I have had the privilege of visiting several times. Some of my cousins have come from Italy to visit us in Canada as well. As the years go by, the relationships between each new generation of my mother's lineage become more distant and difficult to maintain.  For example, it is challenging to connect my nieces and nephews in Canada to their 3rd cousin twice removed in Italy.  With VR, my niece could receive a guided tour, given by a distant cousin, of the house in Cismon del Grappa where my grandmother was born and raised. When my niece receives the dress that I am leaving to her in my will sewn by hand by my grandmother, I believe the connection will be more than virtual.

3. The means and motivation to have and relive moments and connection: In the same example above, the means is the guided tour. The motivation comes from the transformation that takes place for my niece when she meets the distant cousin and my grandmother's house through VR. As the experience is deepened by stories of my grandmother and the real touch of the fabric of the dress, the desire for connection is born in my niece. Thus the deep integration of a single experience, ripples from one experience to the next and one person to another.  The motivation comes from feeling the impact of one experience and extrapolating it to the next.

Thanks for the inspiration!

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Becky Lee Yes! A ripple effect for sure! Your idea of looking at mundane conversations and finding meaning in them is beautiful! Sometimes, that's what I miss most about a person- the every day conversations that might not have been intensely deep, but were meaningful in their way. What you describes sets us up to successfully look for meaning in all (or many) interactions, not just the more typically memorable ones and that's incredibly valuable!

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Becky Lee I agree that VR recording can become the catalyst for giving us structure to have conversations and interactions we might not otherwise engage in. The fact that VR recording is so new and therefore, novel is a great way to get people interested who may have tired of the more traditional methods such as filming a clip and posting it to social media.

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Becky, insightful link to how companies can use VR! There are valuable opportunities for corporate environments for sure! It's great that you made a photo book of your family trip- I can imagine how moving it would be as an immersive VR experience. My cousin's daughter was recently showing us a CD photo compilation of her year in Grade 1 and again, there's huge opportunity there for capturing some of those moments in VR. Imagine, as an elderly person reflecting on your life,  going back to your Grade 1 classroom. It would be spectacular to be able to see yourself in a VR environment growing up and it could provide a moving "life review" that you could actually participate in. I'm imagining being at the end of my life and being able to go to my Grade 5 classroom and to interact with it by opening my desk to see my most valued treasures I kept in my LeKit pencil case!  Sometimes we forget how far we've come and being able to go back in such a "tangible" way might help us remember the value we received and gave in our lifetime. This could profoundly impact the peace we might be able to find at the end of life.

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Excellent point Becky! I hadn't at all thought about how creating a community to share personal content could create a sense of competition, but you are absolutely right. Thank you for bringing this up! We also want to avoid the phenomenon that occurs on social media where people project what can be considered a false version of who they are in order to be accepted and liked (literally and in terms of the like button). I'm so glad you brought this up because the goal of this project is to promote authenticity in oneself and authentic interactions with others and an environment of supportive collaboration as opposed to competition. I haven't seen a lot of that on social media. The only place I've seen that occur successfully is in the OpenIDEO community!

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Hey Team!

Awesome work on this concept.  Members of OpenIDEO are tentatively working on creating what we're envisioning as "Death Week SF" (title TBD).  The week would take place around halloween/dia de muertos in late october, filled with community driven events and experiences around re-imagining the end of life. As part of it, there is a group I know that approached us about hosting an entire VR exhibit featuring submissions from awesome VR folks...It's my hunch that this would be a perfect place to debut a prototype of your concept. Is that something you'd be interested in? If so, I can connect you!

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Hi Brad!

This sounds fantastic and we are definitely interested in attending and contributing in any way possible! Thank you for bringing this to our attention and for connecting us. A Death Week (and specifically around that time of year) is a fantastic way to continue to create momentum around normalizing death and bringing people together around a topic that unites us all. We’re looking forward to hearing more about the event! Thanks again!

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Hi Brad,

It is great that you want to do a Death Week SF. We did a Death Week LA and it is a lot of work but well worth it. I would love to learn more about the VR group and their exhibit. I am so bad at sending messages in this platform. I know I wrote to you back in May but I can't find the message. I wrote to Jamie but I can't find that message either. I hope you both received my prior messages. Please email me with the information. betsy@betsytrapasso.com

Thank you,
Betsy

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Hi Betsy,
Thank you for providing your information. I've emailed you!

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Just as some "clay" to add to the discussion I thought we might be able to glean some good feedback/ideas from http://www.npr.org/podcasts/510200/storycorps.

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Awesome! I just subscribed to the podcast. Thanks Gabriel!

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Hello Everyone,

I am Matt Wright, the CXO and Founder of MAMMOTH VR. I have been working with Jamie on developing out this idea and can talk to the technology side of things.

The technology I mentioned initially is Photogrammetry which would bring the "person" into a 3D space. This would require to take thousands of images and stitch them together to create a persons virtual avatar in 3D. Other ways of doing this would be by using things like project Tango or the Xbox Kinect. They are not to the same quality as photogrammetry but could be easier for the general public to start doing. Here is a video of someone using the Kinect to scan a body. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kKV0xLe405w 

I think that we are many many years from AI being where it needs to be. The thought behind developing profiles and gathering information on people now is enabling future generations to have the data needed to essentially bring a person back to life in the virtual world. This data would be stored and once AI technology is there we would hopefully have enough data to create a fairly accurate representation of how that person interacted with the world and give them the ability to tell stories which they documented previously. 

My goal is not about targeting a particular audience. It is about enabling future generations to have a better understanding of people in the past. Essentially giving users in the future the ability to travel back in time and have a discussion with Elon Musk or their great great grandfather. This is a huge idea, but these need to start somewhere. :)

Data is being collected everyday about us and is being used to market products to us based on our beliefs, interactions and habits. I want to give users the ability to collect this data and share it in the future. Think of it like donating organs but you are donating your online interactions and stories. 

The win from my perspective here is to at least start enabling people to start the process of archiving their interactions, stories and digital avatars.  

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It would be interesting to see the "marketing" of getting folks to contribute. I think of people who already post blogs and comment on message boards or social media, but to have people speak towards things they know or feel passionate about I think is the key. 

Perhaps one angle is to allow people access to the "Matrix" by contributing or recording sessions about topics they are interested in and which others appear to have an interest. So I could go in and decide I want to earn some "time" within the experience, so I am presented with the Top Ten Topics folks are asking about. I see #6 is with regards to painting or art, so I click that (because it is my jam compared to other tags/topics) and I record some audio and visual (making this process as simple as possible) and upload it in order to earn some credit.

I keep going back to IBM Watson involvement: (1) Sorting all the information, (2) providing a flexible interface experience (3) able to promote or demote information based on usefulness or validity to the query.

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Gabriel, the community and gamification aspects of this idea are very intriguing. Wow, it would be incredible to see what others are interested in and to contribute to a global collective of like-minded passionate people. Very cool!

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Jamie Whittaker  Thought you might find Project Tango interesting.  Imagine if you could scan your house or favorite spots and go back to them years in the future.  Or if you could have your loved one seamlessly appear to talk or for you to take a picture with all your ancestors.  You could record a story from your loved one and walk through it as if you lived it. 

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Angel Landeros Wow! Thank you for sharing this! I love your idea for how this new technology could be used. This video is a fantastic, quick summary of Project Tango for anyone who is interested in learning more: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qe10ExwzCqk

The power of being able to communicate in a way that transcends space and time is inspiring and beautiful and I think it's even transforming how I communicate with my loved ones now, just because my awareness has been brought to this subject. Incredible! Thank you Angel!

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That is pretty cool - this would be a great future candidate for recording audio/visual/3D and making it as easy as possible.

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Hi - looks like an interesting start. Please sign me up to the team if you don't mind.

Cheers

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Hi Gabriel Landowski, we've added you to the team and look forward to your insights! Thanks!

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Cheers

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Hi Jamie,

I sent you a private message a couple of days ago in response to your message but now I can't find it! You can connect with me by email:
betsy@betsytrapasso.com
Thanks. I am excited that we connected!
Take care,
Betsy

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Jamie, I updated the previous post 

You ask a lot of very good questions, and propose a number of excellent approaches to unique solutions. I am going to try to respond to all 3 questions in this one post. First I think we have to consider who the audience is that we are trying to reach. Are these Boomers, X’ers or Millennials? Each group will have had differnet experiences with social media. Boomers would have less experience and a smaller database; while X’ers or Millennials would likely have a much greater database of experience to choose from.
Second the VR experience needs to be in some way immersive and stereoscopic, maybe even autostereoscopic. How can we build 3D immersive environments with 2D data? Can we use a tool like Unity 3D to develop 2.5D from 2D data by setting up an orthographic camera instead of using perspective? What is the storytelling methodology that would fit this kind of experience best? Can we create templates that would allow a user to drag and drop 2d data into a scene builder that automates the story development? A Story Maker tool of some sort?
 I think that this idea is a very good concept to take advantage of existing social media content (Instagram, Facebook, etc…), and to capture experience. Then have that stored in a database and used in the future to create VR experiences. This could best Millennial’s approach. New tech would continue to come online making the concept easier to build overtime. By the time they are older they could have a wealth of experience archives developed from social media and GoPro footage.
The Xers and Boomers need a different approach; this is the AARP crowd.
 Another idea you mentioned was about sending out a gift of experience to the people you love over time “archiving experience” I think you called it. I love this thought. I made home video of my Mom just before I lost her over 25 years ago. When I have trouble remembering what she sounded like, her expressions or her laugh I review that film. But I wish I had asked her to answer questions that I need answers to now, questions about raising my daughter, or how she dealt with problems etc…If I could talk to her, and get only a few answers if would greatly improve my spirit at times. So I think if we could use Immersive 3D to create stereo memories; digital film with a Kinect or a ZED, and synch that with Echo and Alexa with voice data, and use 3D displays to view these personal archive experience gifts, we could have a great way to deliver “Gifts That Lift” when one is faced with their mortality. We would have a great product to deliver to the X’ers and Boomers. See the video for these technologies here, and how they could work together.
https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/end-of-life/ideas/her-and-his-story-on-demand

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Hi Ken,

Thanks for the great response! The questions came from Becky Lee  and I agree that they are very good! I want to make sure she gets the credit for them!I also agree that it makes a lot of sense to consider the different generations. I'm an X'er (born in 1980) with no social media so this really resonates with me. How can I (and others who also don't use social media) capture their legacy in a way to pass it down? For me, I think I'll use the data I've been collecting using The 5 Minute Journal App (which I love)! I wonder if there's a way to actively leverage awareness of an app like this to people who don't use social media. Thanks for bringing up the differences of the generations, that's definitely something important to consider!


As for the technological side, I'm going to let my colleague Matt respond since he's the VR expert. You ask fantastic questions that he'll be able to address.


Ken, your story about the video you made of your Mom is moving and beautiful and I'm so grateful you shared it. It brings up excellent questions that we could pose to our loved ones before they are gone (something that doesn't always seem to come up without some kind of catalyst). I love the title "Gifts That Lift" and I see so much value in it for multiple purposes, including embracing our mortality and deepening connections with loved ones while we are still alive.
Thank you for the link to the great video!

 It's wonderful to be on a team with you so we can work together on making this accessible to the masses! What do you think about an open source version that anyone could use?
I love the ideas you posted on your submission Her and His-story On Demand  about how we could experiment with this and I look forward to collaborating further on how to make it all happen!

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Life Curating Experts It looks like our ideas could be really complementary! Would you like to team up?

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Jamie Whittaker would love to work with you and have some people to bounce off ideas.  Let me know how I can contribute or join your team

Photo of Vahid Anwari
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HI Jamie, Sure I would love to join the team. I liked the idea of capturing an environment in 3D.
Let me know how I can contribute. I am new to openideo so I am still not entirely sure how all this works

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Welcome to the team Vahid! I see lots of opportunities for us all to brainstorm on how to bring the worlds of VR and legacy building together.
Going Deep posed some excellent questions that we could ponder as a team. Becky, do you want to post them here for discussion? Thanks!

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Immersive VR experience  - I enjoyed your post and it looks like we have some similar ideas. Would you like to join our team?