Urban Air Mobility

VR Simulated Experience

Overview

For my senior capstone project, I worked with a group of students as team SWRVO to explore the future of transportation through a speculative lens. We researched, designed, and built a VR simulation of Urban Air Mobility on how we envision it would look like if ride sharing services incorporated flying options to your daily commute.

The project was originally set up to be physical exhibition to take place in June. However, due to the corona virus, the capstone event was cancelled which led to many pivots for our team to work online.

Team 

1 Project Manager, 2 VR Developers, 2 UX Designers, and 1 Video Producer.

Roles

VR Development

UX Design

Tools

Unity

Time 

Mar 2020 - June 2020

What is UAM?

Urban Air Mobility is the developing concept of utilizing short distant air travel in-between heavily developed urban areas. Since public transportation is major component in daily commuting, adding another service on top of busses and trains could allow people choose different options to avoid busy traffic to arrive at their destinations quicker. 

How might the future of transportation look like for UAM?

This electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) service will initially aim towards the higher class with a steep price tag. But after many years, we predict that this service can become affordable and accessible to the mass market. 

Research

We began our research by talking with people about their experiences with flying. It is important to understand how people feel about flying with current air transportation because safety, security, and comfort level is what mainly concerns people. After collecting so much data, we presented it to the VR design team to apply it to the simulation.

According to 2020 data, between 33 to 40% of the general population reports some fear of flying, and 2.5% have what is classified as a clinical phobia. one in which a person avoids flying or does so with significant distress. Around 60% of people feel either neutral or confident about flying.

Professional Advising

We met with the design agency TEAGUE and their Boeing division to discuss what research we had completed compared to what they had been working on. At the time they were also working on a proposal for Uber of the riding experience of the eVTOL. The feedback session was a great opportunity for us to learn how to approach this project and shift our focus when researching and developing our concept.

Persona

From our research, our team created a future state experience around user personas to illustrate the user journey. We decided to identify a persona who may need this service for more practical uses to visit friends and family or that may need to have direct accessibility for emergency services.

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Ideation

From our research, our team created a future state experience around user personas to illustrate the user journey. We decided to identify a persona who may need this service for more practical uses to visit friends and family or that may need to have direct accessibility for emergency services.

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User Journey

When designing for our physical installation, we wanted to use a couple of UW Bothell's buildings as if they were UAM stations. We wanted to design a whole experience starting when users book their flight on our mock mobile app, the pick up and drop off checkpoints, waiting area, and finally our VR experience room. However, due to the pandemic, we weren't able to further develop this idea since the capstone event was cancelled.

Usability Testing

The VR scene was created using the Unity engine for the simulation. We set up a 360º  video that was superimposed to play in the background and the footage was recorded by one of our group member's DJI drone. During the testing we had participants come and test our project to document their reactions and feedback to improve our experience.

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Importing 3D Models

We used a 3D model online that resembled a flying aircraft designed by DDDviz. I have very basic 3D modeling skills and I'm not an aerospace engineer that could make a high-fidelity spacecraft.

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Designed by DDDviz

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VR Development

Users wearing a VR headset will be immersed inside this 3D environment and are able to look around in a static seated position. They are able to choose different flight paths by using their gaze to lock onto the middle console to select their flying comfort level. This was a design choice I used instead of adding hand controls because I wanted to let users look around and explore the scene. Each scene will play a different video along with the related audio. When building the simulation, I was able to incorporate features that ensured rider's safety, trust, and comfortability.

SWRVO Project Trailer

Reflection & Key Takeways

Shifting to work online was a big challenge for my team. We had to pivot many ideas because we were planning to make a physical installation for the capstone event. Since the school locked down in April, we did not have access to all of our technical equipment because all of it was on campus which delayed most of our development time. However, our team was able to look towards online planners using applications such as Notion, Trello, Zoom and Slack to keep track on each other's goals and commitments to know what each member was working on every week. Also, Unity had a built in feature that allowed developers to collaborate online making working remotely feasible for the project. We would've liked to have conducted more usability testing with volunteers but it was difficult especially if they didn't have proper equipment.

 

This was all a great learning experience for me to be able to adapt and keep working on the project. I became more accustomed to using Trello and Notion by constantly updating our team backlog and was being more careful in managing my development time.