The Loneliness Problem
In 2016, I took on the Product Design Lead role at Oculus and led design for their social experiences. At that time, VR was still in its infancy stage that only fascinated gamers and early adopters.
After an experience deep dive, it was clear why people weren't having meaningful social interactions in VR:
- VR is a niche that only attracted gamers an early adopters
- Lack of users and timezone differences means there weren't enough people in VR simultaneously
- Coordination to do something together in VR required too much effort
- Abuse in VR
I pitched a concept that focused on the first three challenges called Oculus Events. My vision for Events is for it to be a common time, place, and reason to hang out with friends in VR.
To attract as many people as possible to our platform, Oculus will host events with mass appeal (e.g., live concerts with well known artists). Additionally, we’ll make existing events that's already happening within our ecosystem discoverable (e.g., Tournaments within Casino VR).
I pitched this concept during a brainstorm and designed the end to end experience. The team comprised of me, the sole designer, a PM, and several engineers.
I’ve designed the experience to mimic an events guidebook. Imagine moving to a new city and not knowing anyone or what to do. We’d want to explore the neighborhood and connect with others. Logging onto VR is like going into a new world. We need to help users “find the village”. However, in its current state, users will only see their default home screen to launch an existing app or download new ones. By having this events guidebook, people will be able to find fun things to do, see how many people are attending, and if their friends are there.
Designing in VR
There was no standard design component system available at that time. Google Daydream was months from launching. I worked closely with the Oculus design team on design foundations such as grid, color, font sizes, interactions, etc. To validate my design assumptions, I learned Unity and prototyped in VR.
As you can see in the video above, the UI is wrapped around a user's field of view. With John Carmack's new Cylindrical TimeWarp Layers, we have to put all our content onto this flat 2D panel. A lot of factors affected how I determined the size of my artboard and the content grid. When people put on the headset during research, they look at content that's placed in the middle first and some turn their heads (most people turn to the left). We've also noticed that a lot of people don't know they can turn to see more content. If they do, too much turning strained their neck. As a result, I went with a narrower grid for an ergonomic browsing experience.
Events is one of the most successful feature ever to launched on the platform. There were over 25k event attendees in a single month. Nearly 10% of Gear users subscribe to Events, with 3% returning to more than 1 event. Overall time spent has a 4% lift and retention increased 5.3%. Most importantly, events contributed to over 40% of app downloads & installs for apps that hosted events.
To learn more, see these links: