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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

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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.

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