BondFire is a multiplayer VR experience aiding those with social anxiety disorder via unique questions and authentic bonding.
Built and integrated UX/UI design in Unity
Developed the interaction game logic
Prototyping and 3D asset management
Positive user engagement for reoccurring use
Decreased challenging user interactions
Increased self-awareness and personal enjoyment
Social anxiety disorder is the fourth most common mental disorder, individuals with SAD experience intense fear and avoidance of social situations. Access to exposure therapy software in virtual reality is limited and aims to target the disorder in a direct manner. How can you deliver aid to someone with SAD by allowing them to feel calm and validated in a relaxed environment?
In order to create a meaningful multi-user experience, as the UX that could capture the essence of a natural setting I needed to use my role as lead user experience and interface designer to expand on a framework of intuitive and simple features. I focused on how to make an optimal environment for making connections with people in a calm setting and one where conversations can easily be had, an ocean bonfire.
Brainstorming and Ideation
Understanding the different components of the virtual multiplayer interaction was a key integration. One of my first tasks was to understand, visualize and contribute to the overall game architecture of the system. What's the implicit interaction outside of speaking to each other? Building a bonfire, together.
The idea was to build a series of questions for different levels of authentic relationship forging. The goal was to help encourage users to get to ask questions they may not usually think of. For example: What's the biggest thing you've overcome?
The Big Idea
01 Meet & Introduce
Users are given some small introduction potentially by their therapist that is focused on making sure they will come to the social interaction with an open mind and an open heart. The user puts on the Oculus Quest II and enters the VR space. The second user may also have SAD or could be someone knowing that they want to help these types of people.
02 Answer Questions
Immersion within the BondFire environment takes a moment. Users are prompted by the welcome message, they are able to interact with the logs and must intuitively figure out to place the logs on the fire together to pass on to start answering the series of qualitative questions.
03 Build the Bond
A lifelong friend or love relationship isn't guaranteed but the ability to step out into a new social setting and be guided through unique questions does have an impact. We are able to witness a visible shift of self-described improvement and confidence for many of the participants. A bond is formed.
Interaction Hierarchy and Task Flows
For a simple interaction, there is a complex system working in the background, such as creating a function that destroys the log once it collides with the fire, then generating a new log and a new question. Understanding and documenting this game interaction logic was necessary to ensure that the code functioned properly.
Real Connections for Real Users
As this VR interaction grew we knew that there were fidelity issues in having all assets and plugins function flawlessly. In order to have the multiplayer function simultaneously, it would be one of the bigger challenges. Giving master controls to each object made the experience heavy on the multiplayer servers. I adjusted accordingly by minimizing and compressing nonessential assets in the scene.
The BondFire team and I spent countless hours constructing an environment and interaction that would best fit the needs of the user while enabling them to break free of old stories that prevented them from making new social connections. The key was to put them in a realistic setting that had the look and feel of something they could encounter in their real lives.
After the game logic was decided on it seemed like the easier aspect would be the implementation of the interactive features. We sought out help from other engineers that could provide the tools to troubleshoot the bugs. Using cross-team collaboration enabled this project to have success.
The project enabled me to work and think on a multitude of 3D technologies to accomplish similar ideas. The workload was interesting and pushed me to ask more challenging questions that would enable me to present a more simple solution to the end-user.
Ultimately working with two other team members made this experience enjoyable, especially when it came to the user testing aspects, even though the sample size was relatively small, every user that engaged in the BondFire experience was amazing at the feelings and connections that stemmed from it. I could see this project having many future use cases as virtual world engagement increases.