Design For Experience
Little wild things
Wild Little things is an "Augmented Reality" and physical experience provided in Richmond Park. It allows children to incorporate wild animals and replicate the tasks these perform by instinct.
This experience is part of the Green Network project by Clyde Waterfront, that aims to regenerate Richmond Park. The tasks are designed to help and maintain the park.
Such approach allows children to not only help in the park regeneration, but also to understand and bring awareness of the importance of wildlife in parks and in general. They are given a first-hand insight on what it feels like to be a wild animal, whilst performing fun but meaningful activities.
The first step of my research was to visit the park and its surrounding area, and then complement it with desk study, as means to understand its history and weight of the park in the social context of the city.
My design opportunity was found when looking at a map describing the different animal species found in the park, yet during my visit, I noticed that the wildlife dedicated spaces where scarce. How could I enhance the importance of wildlife that is so often dismissed in urban environments, especially city parks?
Equipped with the aforementioned map and a camera, I walked along the path in Glasgow Green in an attempt to encounter and identify some of the referred species, point out a relevant route and note down the existing types of wildlife. With that journey as inspiration, I started working on early concepts and develop simple basic prototypes for each one. These concepts were developed with the idea of raising awareness and encourage people respect more the wildlife, regardless of their size or importance.
With the initial ideas generated and user feedback, I developed a main concept: create a journey where users become animals and replicate their actions with their senses and skills, thus creating awareness of the importance of wildlife in the ecosystem. The more I worked on the idea, the more the activities made me think of the experience as a sort of game that could be directed specifically to children. Not only could they become more engaged and attuned to the importance of each of these animals, but also have fun whilst hopefully developing certain sensitivity to wildlife creatures.
I focused the experience on three common species of the park: the fox, the crow and the bee.
Some of their most prominent characteristics are shown below:
- Sees UV colours and in 360 degrees
- Amongst others, spreads seeds due to the eaten berries and fruit
- Sees entirely in UV and communicates with antennas
- Plays a major role in pollination
- Has the ability to hunt down animals without seeing them
- Helps to control populations of prey animals
In order to test the different senses of the animals, I performed a series of tests where I experimented different textures, smells, sounds, and vision types.
This approach helped me relying on other senses, rather than just vision, as humans normally do.
As I was testing the senses mentioned before, I simultaneously worked on a prototype that I kept changing and refining according to my findings. The idea was to create a mask, or a helmet, that would allow children to immerse themselves in the reality of the animal, by relying on the senses it uses to perform its daily activities. This testing allowed me to consider and identify issues while making and developing the product.
The more the concept evolved, the more I identified issues that needed to be addressed. As I was developing a product for children, I sought feedback from parents, which helped shape and progress with the work.
As my project was about to become both physical and virtual experience, I tested VR in myself and other people, in order to understand its potential and limitations. Such method allowed me to understand the power of VR on its own and, most of all, that I needed to simplify my product rather than having so many different touch-points.
In order to simplify the system, I revisited the senses of each animal and took the decision to eliminate smell. Although I was removing an important sense, the experience could now be performed only with cardboard VR glasses, earbuds and a smartphone, and could therefore be cheap and accessible to reproduce. As every animal needed to be easily identifiable, I developed head cardboard masks, and the VR glasses would go inside.
For the Final Product, I presented three different masks with an image and sound for each. The mask of the Crow was a working prototype, as the goggles I developed fitted and attached inside the mask and the user could then enjoy the small experience I created. I also developed videos that illustrated the task carried by each animal.
As crows, children find the seeds available in the trees, whose labels are only visible in UV, and plant them afterwards in the areas that have the corresponding label.
As a bee, the child will go around flowers and hand-pollinate them, with the help of simple items, such as cotton buds.
The Foxes have to hunt their “preys” through sound. Once found, a button is pressed and a balloon is given. That same balloon is placed in a plot area where it will work as a scarecrow.
In order to participate in Wild Little Things, parents just need to purchase a paper mask at the park, and bring a smartphone and earbuds. The second step is to download the app and choose the animal and time for the experience. Finally, place the phone inside the the mask and everything is ready to go.
Parents are to accompany their children through the experience.