Clients: IJsfontein & Waterline Museum
Role: Creative lead & developer
Team: Ramzi Sarieddine, Julia Pelgrim and Lina Piaki

Re-designing a VR experience to be more immersive and memorable

The Waterline museum tells the story of water in its capacity as an ally in defending the Netherlands between 1588 and 1940. The museum features a VR experience that lets visitors see the size of the waterline defence system by dropping them high above the Netherlands through a parachute simulation, we were asked to enhance the existing experience to be more memorable and exciting as a research through design project.

The original experience started off in the museum and teleported you up in the sky. The visitors glide down back to the museum with a virtual parachute. Along the way visitors can see the waterline appear and a voice-over explains some of it’s features. We started out by making a journey map of the experience to gain a better understanding of what could be improved.

What makes a parachute jump memorable? We got in contact with skydivers and interviewed them to find out about the most defining moments of a jump. Findings in various research papers on embodiment in VR made it clear that we also needed to make changes to the physical setup.  This resulted in the decision to focus on redesigning the beginning of the experience.

“The intensity and the loudness of the wind”

“Especially the part from airplane to sky was the scariest.”

“The scariest was the moment the door opens.”

The user now starts in an airplane and has to slide open the airplane door by looking at the door handle. As the door opens a pair of fans turn on at half speed to simulate wind coming through the door. The user then has to get up from their seat and walk towards the edge of the door. At the edge, the fans rotate at full speed and the user gets instruction to jump out of the airplane by taking a big step forward.

We connected the VR Experience to two fans through an arduino microcontroller which in turn sends a signal to a relay switch to turn the fans on or off. To add to the sense of agency in VR we physically recreated the position of the edge of the airplane door opening with a platform from which users have to take a leap of fate.

We changed the Unity experience to include an airplane interior and exterior and re designed the flow of the entire experience to make sure there is a consistency in the interval of memorable and exciting moments.

After we redesigned the VR experience we did a lab study with 30 users to find out how much the experience changed. The opening of the door, the feeling of wind and the step over the edge made the experience more exciting for almost all of our user tests. IJsfontein is now using our results to see how they can redesign the experience.

A double diamond model of our complete design process during this project can be seen below.