The idea of our VR project Fader is simple: Fader allows journalists to work in VR
and provide an easy-to-access way to search for stories, make sense of the data found and to publish the story in VR. So far so good. Another important aspect of Fader are the collaborative opportunities while working in VR – let’s say there are two journalists working on the same story – one journalist works from Berlin, Germany and the other journalist works from San Francisco, USA – a typical scenario for news organizations when working on complex stories that require international attention.
Of course, the journalists could skype, of course they could email, slack or asana their way through the story. In Fader, however, we want to allow these two journalists to be virtually sitting in the same room, looking at the same data simultaneously, discussing their findings in real-time while making sure to not miss the latest developments of a story.
Quite the ambitious project for such a simple idea because there are so many questions unanswered at the beginning. Besides technical challenges (which Stephan frequently covers here on the blog), the conceptual work behind Fader is not trivial! For example:
- How should a VR room for journalists look like exactly? How should the data be represented virtually? What types of data should be represented?
- Once we know the data journalists want to see in VR (e.g. multimedia items like posts, tweets, videos etc.), how do we actually visualize that without overwhelming the journalist? Should Fader show all the data requested? Should it leave out information? But then based on what grounds? Relevance? What does relevance mean in this context?
- Once we know how to visualize the data, how can we signal important alerts (e.g. breaking news coming in or a related tweet being retweeted a gazillion times) – is it via proximity (the closer an item to a journalist, the more relevant) or via shapes? Through colors? Maybe sound alerts?
- Once we know how to visualize relevant data, what should a journalist do with that? Store selected items in a bucket for later revision? Delete unimportant information? Share data with other journalists?
- How can journalists then create an immersive experience for users?
- And how do journalists actually collaborate? How does the role management look like? Who gets to publish a story? Who gets to edit?
I can go on and on but a blog post can only be so long (that’s a rap – inspired by Lil Kim – yup I’m old).
We decided to meet up with the Berlin Fader team in order to brainstorm UX issues and also discuss rapid prototyping methods to continue working on Fader. Based on a blog post by Jody Medich from Leapmotion, we „broke out our scissors“ and papers in order to get things going. Jody writes: „It’s time for us to start talking about designing rooms full of objects, rather than buttons on screens.“
We need to stop designing for 2D screens and rather start designing for rooms full of objects. In the post, it is recommended to actually start hacking with paper. Physically modeling 3D worlds help to understand how people interact with objects in VR. So this is what we did. Here you can see a little 360 video from our hack.
This is just a first iteration but our prototyping session actually helped us to get away from the screen and think about what journalists really need in a 3D world.
We’ll keep you posted with the latest developments.