Using Maker Spaces to Design “Anchors” (Transitional Objects) for VR content
There is research that suggests young children feel safer and more comfortable when they transition between home to school with a teddy bear. Initial findings from a commercially-funded study being undertaken at Dubit looking at children’s interaction and engagement with VR content, suggest that young audiences (8 years-old) would like physical objects to help them transition from physical into virtual spaces. This would act as an “anchor” reminding them of where they are and where their physical body is in relation to the virtual environment. A bit like the use a ‘Totem’ in the film Inception which allowed the characters to keep track of what was real and what was a dream: http://inception.wikia.com/wiki/Totem
At present some VR content uses a virtual object to act as a connection between physical and VR environment, such as virtual hands that move with the players real hands in Job Simulator. The VR device, HTC Vive has recently brought out a tracker (https://www.vive.com/uk/vive-tracker/) that can bring any real-world object into the virtual world. This project will work with a group of 8-year-olds to explore the kinds of objects they would like to transition with into a range of VR content. Specifically a group of 8 year-old children will pick a piece of VR content that interests them, i.e. Job Simulator (gaming content) or Google Earth VR (exploration), then design an object to transition with (an “anchor”) into that particular piece of content. For example, they might design a space pack similar to the one in Figure 1 to use in Google Space VR, but it could be any design of their choosing.
Children will then build the “anchor” they design using a maker space. These will then be tested in the VR lab at Dubit.
We have been exploring differences in how children create with physical and virtual materials, as well as how they play with a physical Avakai doll in a virtual world created by Deborah. We have used the HTC VIVE Tracker to take the physical doll into the virtual world, using the program Google Tilt Brush (see Figure 1).
Findings so far indicate that the affordances of the physical and virtual domains mean that children can create worlds that have similar features but are quite distinct in nature.
Virtual Reality has much potential for enhancing children’s creativity and digital literacies.
For further reading on the ongoing work, see the MakEY VR blog – https://makeyvr.wordpress.com