Our goal for Dazzle VR was to create an immersive, multi-sensory experience specifically intended for relaxation and mindfulness. We wanted to make sure that we had various amounts of interaction to ensure we could actually achieve what was intended. This project was created with the Open Door Charity which allowed us to have constant communication in what we could include, and what content would help those who would use the app. Working with them also gave us great insight into mindfulness and how it can be achieved.
We proposed three maps, a tropical paradise, a winter wonderland, and an out-of-this-world space experience.
To begin this project, we broke this project down into interactive sections. The Open Door Charity described they types of mindful activities that they would usually perform. This included a breathing exercise, some form of counting , a body scan and a focus exercise.
From this we tailored our 3D designs into creating scenarios in VR where these type of activities would work. For example, a breathing exercise on a tropical island would work well with watching and listening to the tide wash in and out. In the winter wonderland, counting falling snowflakes would compliment the second counting experience. Keeping focus on a butterfly fluttering past, allowing it to land on the user’s hand whilst they are still would enhance a focus exercise.
Following this, we were able to begin our development inside of UE4 (Unreal Engine 4). This is where we excelled during this project, as we were able to use our vast experience and design three beautifully contrasting environments, and implement all of the immersive interactions that would be parallel to the audio. When developing the environments we made sure to make each one unique to give the user more choice, and to widen the target audience, as not everyone finds the same thing comforting.
For each area, we created four different activities to go along with the audio scripts. For each activity, the user is teleported to different sections of the scene allowing for variety. When programming these activities we were able to use our innovation to connect the environments to the mindful activity so the users’ immersion would not be broken.
Once the interactions and story were in place, we sent overviews of how the scenes looked and what prompts were needed to direct the user through the mindful VR. The Open Door Charity then used these descriptions to write and record audio to compliment the experiences. We edited these audio files and added them to the VR application.
Just like every project, there are always going to be challenges to overcome. One of these was ensuring the accessibility of the app was to a high standard. This was a key part of this project as it was vital that the app would be inclusive so that anyone can relax, no matter their age, ability, or knowledge of Virtual Reality. To overcome this challenge we decided it was important that there was more sight-focused interaction, instead of constantly having to grab things or click too many buttons.
Another challenge we faced was making sure the experience was not too complicated or stressful to use, as this is the complete opposite of what the project is for. To overcome this, we created the user interface out of images that clearly represent each environment, as this allowed the user to instantly understand everything without needing to read. We did also include text with the images as it was still important for accessibility.
We also chose the controls carefully. As the only point-and-click interactions were navigating to and from the menu, we ensured that any button on the controller would allow them to do this.
Due to Dazzle being a VR project on the Oculus Quest 2, we had to ensure the experience was as optimized as possible since its processing capacity is more limited than a pc. To overcome this we carefully managed the project by adjusting the quality of each asset and material. Doing this was a challenge in its self as we needed to look good for immersion but also run as smooth as possible.