CMU Virtual Tour Experience

Jacky Lococo
15 min readNov 23, 2021

Partner Project with Jessica Lai!

Brief:
Prospective students and families currently have a number of options to visit Carnegie Mellon University: a student-led tour of campus, a guided Virtual Campus Tour, or a guided Virtual Residence Hall Tour. These tours all try to offer an overview of the entire university in under an hour. While they are a
wonderful way to introduce the university, the information is broad, focused on what’s on campus, and questions of student life and individual programs are limited to the knowledge of the Tartan Ambassador providing the tour.
The University recognizes the limitations of the existing tour options, and therefore is hiring you to develop an autonomous (no tour guide) augmented reality tour. This tour will allow visitors to explore both campus and the surrounding community that is a vital part of the CMU experience. Your goal is to tell stories, convey useful information and delight users.

For the first presentation with the client:(what you will present at the end of this project), you will provide two items:

  • (a) an overview of the whole tour experience and
  • (b) a low-fi prototype of a single tour stop*
  • Through this presentation you will explain the stellar user experience afforded by your approach to AR and they will give you sign off to design the other stops on the tour.

Personas

For our personas, we focused on making them have different interests within CMU, different priorities, and also different ability levels. For interest, we have prospective students interested in business, computer science, and also drama. We also included Linda who has lost mobility in her legs and is currently in a wheel chair.

Self Reflection- Jacky : As the prevalence of digital media in our physical environments increases daily, what is the role and/or responsibility of designers in shaping our environments?

I think that the role of designers to shape our environments is pretty large. Like any other field, design is something that requires a specific skill set and training. Designers get proper education to create a well made space, but also consider the space’s place within a larger system. The training they undergo is something that makes them have a lot of responsibility in making our environments.

Additionally, designers skills span across many different mediums. Some might focus solely on the physical design where as others focus on the UI/UX elements and the more digital media elements. Because there is expertise in these two parts, collaboration among these specialized designers is important in creating a well integrated space.

Self Reflection-Jessica:

The continuous trend of integrating technology into our daily rituals requires people to constantly adapt and learn new methods of productivity. As these devices appear in a wider audience, designers are to be constantly challenged to create an environment that is accessible to all, and to include equity in design requires flexibility and forgiveness to the user’s choice of action when navigating the space. It is also important to consider these elements in the context of an entire system, where other stakeholders can be enhanced or destroyed through positive feedback loops while relationships can become stagnant through negative feedback loops.

Another concern is the use of technology for the sake of creating a world that overrides reality as a way of escapism. This can be seen in games and social media, where our perception of reality becomes reliant on the image our digital screens reflect due to our fixations. Constantly feeding the user’s desire to immerse in the digital world to the point of inhibiting their physical world selves is at core unethical. As a designer, it is important to find that balance of engagement without loosing sight of reality.

Inspiration:

  • Thinking about what augmented reality can bring to improve campus tours at CMU, we started to think about how the visitor can be lead through space to explore a new environment with interest and curiousity. Taking inspiration from a few games that follow this mode like Genshin Impact and Sky Children of light, we thought about guides that give out challenges and collective elements like candles that cumilate towards a reward that you can collect in the end. We also thought the idea of gift giving and exchanging between players would create a memorable experience for players to feel the sense of community here at CMU
  • Next we started to think about the location of our tour and what each area can provide for our video. It is at this stage when we discovered the structural intentions behind the placement of CFA and why it looks over all the other buildings.

Concept Ideation: Tour of CFA

For our original concept, we were going to mainly focus on CFA. In each of the different alcove parts of the CFA buildings, there would be a

Concept Ideation— The “Explorers Ship” Tour

The main idea we came up with for the tour is based around the idea that the lawn area was designed to mimic an “explorers ship”. Recalling once when a campus guide talked about the layout of CMU buildings and how it relates to Carnegie’s perspective on education and interdisciplinary collaborations, we started to research the architect that built CMU, Henry Hornbostel. This is when we learned that the design of the mall was to mimic an explorers ship, where each building adds to the function to move the ship forward.

Storyboard — Interdisciplinary Project Simulation

Considerations:

  • How can we make this experience more exciting and engaging? Right now it seems to just move through the buildings so how might we make it so that the visitor plays more of a role.
  • What are some assets that could be useful?

Prototyping LOFI — Aero

Asset Brainstorm

Feedback Nov. 25:

After we talked with Mihika, we changed our idea to create a tour that included the visitor walking around CMU a bit more. Here are some of the feedback points:

  • To what extent do they make this project?
  • what do they specifically do?
  • high cognitive load for the use motion to create guided participation
  • maybe make preset things for users to drag and drop
  • Process and sees the whole experience while you walk, integrates tour and physical space into the end experience
  • enhance interaction through animation
  • collecting tokens as project continues
  • RPG game with resource information provided
  • Pick a narrative that adds to the overall story

Concept Ideation — Interdisciplinary Project Simulation Progressive Simulation

This is the final main idea that we decided on for our project. We decided to evolve our idea into a project simulator that occurs throughout the entire tour of CMU. There are going to be several stops along the mall that have a station connected to them. At that station, the visitor will complete a certain part of the project that corresponds to the building they are at. For example if they are at Baker Hall there would be a humanities element added to the project like a grant proposal .

Reasons we see a need for this tour:

  • CMU is a school with many strong individual schools. We have an amazing arts school, comp sci school, business school, drama school ect. However, there isn’t a lot of emphasis on the collaborative elements that exist within CMU.

Feedback Daphne and Tay:

After talking to Daphne and Tay, we have a few pieces of feedback that we re going to focus on:

  • To what extent do they make this project?
  • what do they specifically do?
    high cognitive load for the use motion to create guided participation maybe make preset things for users to drag and drop.
  • Process and sees the whole experience while you walk, integrates tour and physical space into the end experience
  • enhance interaction through animation
  • collecting tokens as project continues RPG game with resource information provided
  • Pick narrative that adds

Progress Nov. 29 — Creating Assets

Development of Scott!!

We wanted to create a tour guide that could be a friendly introduction to CMU! So, Jessica came up with Scott and 3D rendered him on Maya. He has very soft curves that are extremely friendly. We tried out how it would look in aero and also tried out a few animations that we could have him perform. The main reason why we want to include a tour guide in our tour is because the interactions and process are a bit complex, so it would be best to have a helpful resource so that the visitors feel like they are being guided instead of just thrown into the simulator.

We also came up with the main visual identity that we want our tour to have. Since it is a simulator, we want it to give off a bit of a video game vibe. This means more translucent buttons with thin line work and also some intricate buttons and dials.

Color Palette:

Photo Storyboard

To get a realistic feeling of how the tour would feel like in person, we walked around the campus mall to determine where each of our stops would have taken place. This was also a good way to create storyboard for both the whole tour experience and the sketch video as we figured out camera angle and compositions. From here we would do some illustrations over them to get a better sense of placement and the aspects that we would include in areo versus after effects.

Video Production — Planning

We updated a few portions of the storyboard with some of the assets we may include in our video like the soundboard.

Feedback from Daphne and Tay

  • Try to incorporate more 3D elements into the space and use the space a bit more, there is a lot of 2D flat objects in the storyboards.
  • Having things anchored to the lenses will be very difficult for the visitor
  • figure out what is anchored in 3D place and what is anchored to the glasses themselves

Video Production — Sound Choice

We went through bromlead to try and find some background music and we ended up using the Orange Mood song.

Video Production — Progression of Projects we were going to showcase:

Throughout the video production process, we changed our minds a lot on what we were going to showcase in the video. At first, we were going to have the overall project be a Musical Production and then we were going to showcase the sound engineering component and the acting component.

But, as we thought about this more and did more research, we found out that the sound engineering school is actually in CFA. Then we would have had two components that dealt with CFA instead of showing the interdisciplinary aspect.

We then thought about the project we wanted to offer as an option and we thought we could do pre-existing ones that have been done in the past. So we looked to past project to guide us a bit in this. The project we chose was the poker robot that CMU students made.

In this project, we will showcase two different tasks:

  • Engineering: creating a little Arduino breadboard that will act as the robotic component of the robot
  • CFA: designing the physical appearance of the robot

Asset Creation

This portion of our project was continuously worked on so it was difficult to document its progression. We constantly shifted and changed our assets to work with the feedback we received and also changed them to work with our concept that evolved.

Role and Project Choice:

Progress Cube:

Icons:

3D assets (created on maya and dimension):

In order to get a lot of the 3D modeled assets into after effects, we either used aero or we would use greenscreen.

Text boxes:

Greenscreen:

Script and Narration

For our script and our narration, we went through a few issues of trying to get voice actors for each of the different parts. The voices we needed were:

  • The narrator
  • Scott
  • Visitor

However, it took a lot of debating it trying to find voices that would sound distinct between one another and make it clear who was talking at each part. We also went through a few versions of the script and had to re-record the portions highlighted in red above.

Tay’s Feedback:

The night before the video was due, we were able to get some feedback from Tay on our video. He said that most things were looking pretty good, but for the part where we have the visitors ask Scott different questions, he said it would be best to have a visual indicator of a listening and answering state. So, we added three little dots that changed to a speech bubble when Scott was listening versus talking.

Scott listening versus responding

Final Video

Presentation

Final Reflection — Jacky

I think the skills I have for the first project versus the second are extremely different. For the first one, spatial understanding was required in the sense that you had to have an understanding of progression and physical placement. However, for this one I found it so much more difficult to have that spatial understanding. We had to think in 3D space a lot more than I have the ability to which I personally found very difficult.

In my mind, the role of an environments designer changes depending on what the environment needs. In many ways, the environment asks what it can from the designer and has it design for it. Because of this, I find it a bit hard to define that role since it can span across many different mediums and subjects. However, I think it is in this inability to harshly define environments designers that make their skills extremely valuable. The flexibilty in medium and subject make

Final Reflection — Jessica

Compared to the last project, what we were assigned to create this time was kind of opposite. The tone and visuals were given in the first project, while this campus tour project required a creation of a narrative and assets. A museum is inherently sensor based, which is why I put more thought into how the lighting, colors, type, and space made the visitor feel. The scale is also different, as we were not confined to a limited space and specific physical conditions. Visitors had so much more freedom as the experience is more personal interest based than controlled by the designer. I also thought it was interesting how designing for a singular outcome is much different from designing for multiple. As the client for the museum project aims for a specific goal and people come to the museum having similar expectations, I find it harder to accommodate for all the different expectations during the campus tour project. Lastly, I also noticed how the future aspect of the campus tour made our approach speculative, as we notice current issues and possible scenarios to design for. I think this was my favorite part of the project and even though all of the projects we make in e only exist in our heads, I think the challenge of grounding these concepts in reality is super exciting.

On that note, I realized that the role of an environment designer is not only to create spaces and interactions, but also something that triggers an impact beyond the physical area which is visited. The program here at CMU also seems to emphasize the utilization of technology and how it can be integrated into the physical environment. Because of this trend that people speculate will come to reality by “the big tech” companies, I also wonder what that means for us as designers and if the responsibility really is on us.

We had a very fun time doing this project! Thank you for a great mini!

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