A democratized earth-gazing experience which evoke pivotal positive emotions
Independent Work | 2019 Tools: Unity Device: HTC VIVE Skills: VR Development, C# programming
Earthgazing was a research project directed by prof. Bernhard Riecke at iSpace Lab, Simon Fraser University. This project was developed by me on top of former research.
"Earthgazing" is a VR experence designed to elicit awe for improved well-being. Awe has wellness and educational benefits including feelings of social interconnectivity, shifts in perspective, and increased life satisfaction. We hope this experience could help make immersive, awe-inspiring experiences accessible to people.
The Overview Effect
“We went to the Moon as technicians, we returned as humanitarians” reflected Edgar Mitchell after his space flight.
This describes the overview effect – a profound awe-inspiring experience of seeing Earth from space resulting in a cognitive shift in worldview, leading to a more conscious and caring view on our planet. Experiencing Earth from space first-hand made many astronauts realize that Earth is fragile, without borders, leading to a feeling of connectedness to humanity and our planet. Such an awareness shift could have a positive impact on our society and planet, especially if we had a tool that allowed for more people to experience it without the risk, cost, and environmental footprint associated with actual space flight.
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Inspired by <2001: A Space Oddesy>, before getting into the VR world, we immersed our participant into a completely dark environment for 3mins, along with a calming ambient sound effect, in order to smooth the transition from real world to virtual world.
Initially, our participant would interact with a growing light ball in the cosmos. With the intention to get the participant fully immersed, I don't want to use any hand controller to break the experience. After brainstorming, I designed a movement imitating interaction, with which the light ball would follow the user's movement (3 DoF) but with a little delay, in order to make it more livable.
Drone-like Sound Effect
On top of the ambient sound, I overlayed a drone-like sound effect to indicate the massive size of the earth and to build up the emotion of our participants.
To fully utilize the edge of virtual environment, we don't want to copy the real-world earth but hope to add a bit more magic sauce to make the experience more awe-inspiring. Hence I designed the shell of the earth made up with flowing lights, which tried to express multiple meanings of fragile atmosphere, aurora, and spiritual sign of all the creatures on earth.