An educational interactive experience that allows you to pull atoms from a 3D periodic table to create molecules.
This was a weekend-long MIT XR Hackathon. Our project focused on enabling a user to play and interact with a periodic table of elements in a safe and engaging virtual lab. The user can easily interact with the periodic table, grab different atoms, and experiment with them to get different results.
HTC Vive | Unity 3D
Main UX Designer
Project Lead and
designer, 3 developers
-Help define project goals
-Define user flows
-Sketch ideas and wireframes
-Define UI and interactions
-Provide 3D assets
-Test with other participants
-Work alongside developers to implement and adjust to any technical constraints
Not all students learn in the same way. Often, students need a more immersive experience which allows for deeper thinking. We thought Chemistry would be an interesting topic to tackle, considering that learning labs require students to wear a lot of safety equipment and deal with abstract concepts such as atoms and molecules.
The EducatVR team aims to tackle this issue by providing an engaging, immersive educational experience, MoleculVR. We wanted students to interact with the world in a way they are not able to in reality, making atoms and molecules tangible.
Middle school kids, audiences typically focused on early science education.
Easy to learn
Items are easy to reach (consider height)
Quick error recovery (allow for experimentation)
Fun and colorful (portray playfulness)
I Spent some time doing some competitive analysis on current VR apps and also used a "guerilla research" approach. I talked to other participants and stakeholders to better understand possible user interactions and mental models around chemistry labs and how they'd interact with our prototype.
I lead the creation the user's journey, sketched user flows, defined user interactions, and scouted 3D assets. As soon as we had a prototype, we made sure to test it and re-assess the scope.
Multiple people visited our area and we ensured to test with them. I took their feedback and continued to iterate wherever we saw necessary. For example, after users created molecules, we noticed that they needed a way to clear them so that they didn't take up space, this lead to the creation of the recycle bin.
Our team redefined scope to ensure we had an MVP. Unfortunately, due to a WiFi outage, we lost a lot of the UI and had to spend the rest of the night recreating it.
The application puts the player in a virtual lab with a 3D periodic table of elements. The user can reach into the periodic table, grab an atom, and put it into a “combination chamber” by the workbench. Users add molecules to the chamber one at a time, allowing them to explore possible combinations of elements. Once a user makes a combination of elements that is a real-world molecule, the user is given visual feedback. The learning experience is discovery-based, allowing the student to try as many combinations as they desire.
We set up within the expo to demo our final application. We had several kids and adults exploring the final design and also provided feedback. Surprisingly, we had various kids return and play with our demo (see video below).
The HTC Vive had some hardware issues. The PC did not detect the Vive hardware. A lot of time was dedicated to fixing these issues, which interfered with our ability to debug.
Many of us are also new to game design (especially for VR) and ran into challenges surrounding the creation of a holistic immersive experience.
The entire project broke 1 hr before it was due. We had to pull our last workable version and lost some of our UI elements (e.g., color-coded periodic table with locked elements).
We effectively used available resources to learn new skills on the fly. Through this, we learned Unity development and what UX and Human-centered practices worked best for our app (test early and often).
We also learned about the constraints of design (i.e. letting the coders code instead of constantly feeding them ideas), teamwork, and team communication. One important aspect we adopted throughout the hackathon was the ability to do “check-ins” so that we could all be aware of each other’s progress and to-do list.
Last but not least, always have a backup plan - technology can fail at any time.