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Virtual Reality Research & Design

Virtual reality in the design process from research, brainstorms and immersive outcomes, especially building empathy and powerful stories.

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There's been a lot of changes and investment in virtual reality technology. More than ever, the accessible and cost of the technology has become more attainable and companies work in the space has been expanded. At the end of 2015, New York Times and Google partnered to deliver 1.2 million cardboard viewers and an app that people downloaded on their phone to experience "The Displaced", about three refugee children from Syria. These immersive journalistic experiences have helped people put themselves in other people's shoes and places than before. Before only people who could afford it could experience this. Now, you can assemble your own. 

Virtual reality has a great potential to improve the way we view the world and design possible solutions we haven't thought or felt before. It's also another form of storytelling. At Sundance this year, 30 VR experiences and eleven installations were featured including a film about being blind. Instead of watching, people can actively participate with the world within virtual reality in films, documentaries, installation and games. 

Opportunities in design, means we can think beyond designing on a screen. This might mean with our eyes, arms and body. Universities such as Stanford are now offering classes in directing, designing and building in virtual reality. As far as the design process, virtual reality could be a new way to collaborate and interact, especially with people far away in the process such has brainstorming, prototyping or even having meetings. 

In my own experiences with the Oculus headset and Oculus Story Studio makes me excited about the possibilities. I've also seen the Samsung headsets used at the British Museum to teach people about the tools within the actual environment set in the Bronze Age. What virtual reality does is build context and as a great potential to help people empathize in areas they don't or usually experience such as the healthcare setting, therapy, our environments due to climate change or even experiences as a woman walking down a street being sexual harassed. Of course there are precautions and learnings that will happen along the way, but for designers and researchers, I see it as a new tool in the more immediate future, especially for the OpenIDEO community. 

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T. Annie Nguyen


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Photo of Aaron Wong

Great post Annie, and thanks for all the links! I knew that our virtual technology capabilities were advancing, but it's amazing to see how everyone is using virtual reality differently.

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