TL;DR


Problem

Most VR experiences strive to achieve complete immersion by creating a disconnect from the real world. However, due to the lack of a notification framework and minimal context awareness in VR, an immersed user may face certain situations such as missing an important call (digital scenario), tripping over wandering pets (physical scenario), or losing track of time (temporal scenario)

Solution

NotifiVR is a Unity based notification framework that allows developers and designers to create, integrate, and customize auditory, visual, and haptic notifications in a VR scene.

Problem Domain


Scope

Room-scale Virtual Reality (VR) technologies are quickly being accepted into our homes with the proliferation of high-resolution, affordable headsets and high-performance computers. Most VR experiences strive to achieve complete immersion by creating a disconnect from the real world. However, due to the lack of a notification framework and minimal context awareness in VR, an immersed user may face certain situations such as missing an important call (digital scenario), tripping over wandering pets (physical scenario), or losing track of time (temporal scenario). In this project we performed research activities to thoroughly understand the problem space and then conducted an empirical study on the noticeability and perception of 5 different VR notifications across 6 modality combinations (e.g., audio, visual, haptic, audio + haptic, visual + haptic, and audio + visual) presented using the HTC Vive headset. Finally, we combine key learnings from each of these steps along with participant feedback to present guidelines for VR notification design and development. The most critical challenge was to strike the right balance between interruptibility and Enjoying VR Experience.

My Role

I was heavily involved in designing notifications and their interactions for VR. For the initial time of the project, I was involved in conducting research activities like secondary research, literature review, competitive analysis and Design Studio. Insights gathered from these activities helped my ideate and design various forms of notifications and their interactions for VR

Type Group Project My Role UX Researcher & UX Designer for VR Timeline 5 months (Jan 2017 - May 2017) Tools Used Sketch, Unity 3D, Blender, Android SDK, Design Sprints, UX Research Methods

What I learned


Design to engage various human senses
Designing for VR
Designing for Notifications

Design Studio


We followed an “elicitation” type procedure with the aim of not only gathering a wide variety of notification designs, but also to understand preferences and associated concerns. The entire design exercise was divided into 3 sections- First introduction and task explanation, Second in designing and finally all participants discussed and critiqued each other’s ideas. Sticky notes and sketches were collected as outcome artifacts

Design Studio with VR Designers

Idea Clustering and Voting

Learn from Exisisting Systems


Since this was my first VR project, I spent considerable amount of time analyzing differences between the applications designed in various VR headsets and their interaction offerings. This gave me thorough understanding of which interactions work naturally for users versus the limitations.

Home Screen of Google Daydream VR

Oculus Rift 2

Samsung Gear VR

Sony Playstation VR

Designing for Digital Notifications


#Storyboard- Existing User Journey

#Storyboard- Proposed User Journey

#Brainstorm sketches to Visualize Interactions

#Designing for Phone Overlay on Controller

The idea of having phone notifications on the HTC Vive controller is to capture user’s attention as quickly as possible. Since the phone notifications displayed in VR are only from primary contacts prioritized by the user on their phone, these phone calls are considered high priority. There were 3 design variations we tested- Visual, Visual+Audio, Visual+vibration on controller. Interactions with the phone were enabled using the capacitive touch on HTC Vive controller.

2D Design for Phone on Controller

Exploring Animations in Unity

Functional Phone Overlay on Controller in HTC Vive

#Designing for Watch in VR

The introduction of smart watches have brought users easy access to notifications from the digital world. Over time users have learned to use watch to check messages. We are using the same metaphor of a watch and applying it to the VR world. Also, Since we create an illusion that the watch is on user’s hand in VR world, they relate the messages on watch to real world and not from VR application. Following are the design iterations right from sketching, visualizing interaction and screenshot from the VR.

Sketches to explore watch interactions

Initial interaction explorations in Unity

2D Designs and Interactions for Watch

#Designing for Overlay Notifications

The 3D popup notifications present themselves in the user’s field of view as and when the notifications arrive. These popups can be attached to the user’s camera or attached to a certain object in the scene. The inspiration for this notification type is taken from 2D notifications on Mac and Chrome browser.

Sketches to explore overlay interactions

Initial Designs

Final Interactions for Overlaty Notifications

#Designs for Android App

Unity Framework for Developers


One of the primary goals of NotifiVR is allowing developers to rapidly implement and prototype the different types of notification alerts in a way that fits within the aesthetic and constraints of their game. Because of this, the architectural framework for the Unity plugin was designed in such a way as to allow flexibility and customizability to developers when designing notifications so that notification alerts and interruptions fit within the immersive experience of unique VR applications. The architectural framework is demonstrated through the class diagram.

Using the above Unity framework the workflow of the developers is modified in the following way: