Using makerspaces 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 undertaken at Dubit looking at children’s interaction and engagement with VR content, suggested that young audiences (eight years-old) wanted physical objects to help them transition from physical into virtual spaces. This would act as an ‘anchor’ reminding them of where they were and where their physical body was in relation to the virtual environment. A bit like the use of a ‘Totem’ in the film Inception which allowed the characters to keep track of what was real and what was a dream.
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 that can bring any real-world object into the virtual world. This project worked with a group of eight year-olds to explore the kinds of objects they wanted to transition with into a range of VR content.
Specifically a group of eight year-old children picked a piece of VR content that interested them, such as Job Simulator (gaming content) or Google Earth VR (exploration), then designed an object to transition with (an ‘anchor’) into that particular piece of content. For example, they could have designed 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.
Figure 1. Image: HTC VIVE.
Children built the ‘anchor’ they designed using a makerspace. These were then tested in the VR lab at Dubit.
We explored differences in how children created with physical and virtual materials, as well as how they played with a physical Avakai doll in a virtual world created by Deborah. We used the HTC VIVE Tracker to take the physical doll into the virtual world, using the program Google Tilt Brush (see figure 2).
Figure 2: Virtual world created for the MakEY project.
Findings indicated 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 work, see the MakEY VR blog.