Futurium is a virtual reality museum which immerses the user into future of food, by demonstrating a future where due to possible food scarcity, the way we consume food is radically transformed. By providing foresight into the future of food consumption, Futurium provokes deeper refection into today’s lifestyle.
Over the past few years, a number of institutions have experimented with virtual reality in a variety of exhibition settings. Our assignment was to design a new museum that only exists in a digital and virtual space. We were asked to consider the role of affordances in virtual environments and explore opportunities for personalization or collaboration.
Our team decided to explore the affordances of virtual reality by prototyping the future. We know climate change will cause food scarcity, yet this reality is beyond our comprehension. We decided to imagine a scenario we take for granted, a dinner at home, and prototype how climate change will change this experience. In doing so, we can stimulate meaningful conversations on the future of food.
CMU MDes Fall IxD Studio I
Ema Karavdic, Tilo Kruger, Ulu Mills
Concept Design, Art Direction, Data Visualization
Illustrator, Cinema 4D, After Effects
How might we use virtual reality to create a museum exhibit of the future of food consumption?
Rebecca Shreckengast, Director of Exhibition Experience for the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.
Our research started with a visit to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. The goal was to connect with Rebecca Shreckengast, Director of Exhibition Experience and CMU alumna. She enlightened us about the current state of VR and AR in museum exhibition design, She also contemplated possibilities for VR to transport users to remote places or exhibit incredible detail. Our visit to the Natural History Museum inspired a discussion about the key benefits of museums: providing social events through which we can learn about cultural artifacts.
We realized adding Virtual Reality to the museum experience would allow users to see artifacts in context. Virtual reality also allows for personalization, allowing users to explore data in their own way. We decided to avoid a digital replication and leverage virtual reality’s ability to display perspectives that would be impossible in a traditional museum.We learned it is important to maintain the core factors that keep visitors coming back to museums and how virtual reality can increase engagement:
VR provides unique benefits for exhibition design:
We knew we wanted to use Virtual reality to create impossible perspectives for museum exhibits. However, there were a multitude of creative directions we could take .For example, we initially explored the idea of an expert guided tour. However, we realized this removed opportunities for agency and personalization.
We took a step back an listed the decisions to be made. Using semantic differentials, we decided where in the spectrum our solution should lie.
While providing a narrative makes the experience easier to curate, we felt it was important to give users the agency to explore. We thought that this could happen in the form of branching paths, or a set number of curated paths that change over time.
Although VR affords the opportunity to visualize abstract concepts, we thought that artifacts presented in a concrete way would be a stronger access point to these concepts.
VR is inherently a solitary experience, so we wanted to consider ways to make it social. Live interaction affords temporality to the exhibit, but we were more interested in exploring asynchronous collaboration in the form of breadcrumbs within the exhibit and sharing on social media. This might allow museum visitors to have social experiences even when they can’t come together.
For ethical reasons, we worried about the effects VR would have on children. Furthermore, Oculus recommends that only children 13 and older use it, so we’d like to stick with working with those constraints.
This is a more practical consideration. Oculus recommends spending no more than 30 minutes in a headset before taking a 45-minute break, and we want to scale that back even shorter so that the experience is more enjoyable and repeatable.
Total agency Guided Tour
Solo Live collaboration
Ages 13 & up
To learn more about futuring, we interviewed Stuart Candy, renowned futurist and professor, who introduced us to his foresight practice, design fiction, speculative design and to the experiential futures ladder.
He explained how most discussions about the future are abstract, making it difficult communicate the urgency of decisions affect our future. Speculative Design uses the experiential futures ladder to defines future scenarios and create artifacts from the future, making the abstract concrete. Here, we saw an opportunity to leverage the affordances of Virtual Reality by bringing the future to life.
We then defined our main mission: to create an immersive VR experience that fosters meaningful conversations about the future by allowing visitors to explore, experience, reflect, and discuss possible visions of tomorrow.
Experiential Futures Ladder
Our next step was to determine which scenarios we wanted to develop. Stuart recommended two organizations which focused on futures research. Institute for the Future and Fight for the Future. These sites contained reports predicting the future of health, work, education and other topics. We brainstormed several scenarios but they seemed too abstract. We conducted a lightning decision jam to land on our main topic. post-its and sticky-dots for voting we landed on the Futures of Food—a topic that every visitor could relate to and that would allow us to explore many compelling futures.
Each team member wrote a few future of food scenarios based on our research. We discuss the scenarios, voted on them an decided on the following future of food scenarios.
In a future were food has lost any resemblance to a source, what forms might it take? How might it shape the ways food and eating fit into out lifestyles?
In a future where most food service is a fully automated robot based industry, how would we evaluate a culinary restaurant experience
In a future where animal protein can be synthesized ethically, what might we then be able to eat? How would our relationships with animals
We created an mood board so our team could discuss the look and feel for our lobby and room. We were inspired by the visuals from the film from the Isle of Dogs, which featured a clinical yet vibrant display of vials. We wanted the look and feel of the lobby to reflect the style of the Futurium Museum. This mood board was a guide Tilo’s 3D modeling of the kitchen.
Before experiencing a future, the participant must choose between three possible scenarios. We created icons which reflected the theme of each room.
After leaving the future scenario, the participant can view an interactive data visualization This interaction guides them through the research which inspired the scenario. We decided it was most impactful for the participant to experience a future before seeing the research. Once they have learned more about the scenario, they can continue the conversation about the future with others.
© Corine Britto 2020
User Experience Designer
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