Traveling While Black is a simple, passive VR experience that lasts about 25 minutes. Switching between 2D video and 3D scenes, the viewer is immersed in the storytelling of several people reflecting on the restriction of travel on black Americans throughout history. Traveling While Black attempts to facilitate a dialogue about race relations and educate its viewers. The experience is cinematic and well produced, however the way the scenes transition can leave viewers nauseous, making it was difficult to watch in one sitting.
The story started in 2D and then transitioned to an immersive 3D set, which was really powerful. The user interface (UI) was very simple and easy to understand, but not designed in a way that enhanced the experience of the app.
Traveling While Black was similar to watching a movie; the experience is stationary and fades to black in order to to switch scenes.
All of the user interface components in Traveling While Back are represented in 2D form. The simplicity of the buttons allow for a completely functional and straightforward experience, while lacking the excitement and engagement of 3D components; and vice versa, the 3D experience portion could have benefited from some UI components. Because the experience was twenty minutes of passive viewing, there was a missed opportunity to add pop up interfaces to prompt and engage the viewer throughout the story. Like the buttons, the credits are also flat text.
Inputs and Controls
This experience only required one control: the point and trigger selection.
The sound design throughout the main experience fit well. There was no haptics tied to the sounds, nor was there a need for any. The one point which lacked sound or haptic feedback when there should have been was if the user decided to download the experience. The download can take several minutes, even up to ten minutes, and the user is not expected to keep the headset on the whole time. However, there is no sound or haptic feedback when the download is complete so the user needs to keep putting on the headset to check if its ready. For a seamless experience, there should have been external sensory feedback to alert the user when the download finished.
Key Interaction Patterns
- Easy to learn
- Self-explanatory (there is no UI telling you how to pause, but if you click any button on the remote it will pause)
- Legible (Usually white or green text on a black background)
- Responsive (The text changes color when you hover over it so u know its clickable)
- The download about ten minutes and the user has to putting the headset back on to check if its done (there is no sensory feedback when it finished nor is there an estimated download time displayed)
- The download screen is a blank black room. It is a missed opportunity to provide other content.
- The credits page is scrolling text, similar to the credits for 2D movies. The boring 2D credits were a missed opportunity to utilize 3D space and allow the viewer to engage in more content.
The learning curve is perfect for the broad audience the experience is trying to attract as all the buttons are self-explanatory. The downloading feature was especially clear as it answered all the questions that came to mind such as "can I remove the headset during the download" (yes) and "how much space do I have left to download this?" (X amount).
One controller use is feasible and transitioning between left and right controls was easy, one clicks any button the controller they would like to use. The fonts, text, and contrast were appropriate, however there were not subtitles available to accompany the dialogue in the experience.
Despite being a sit down, stationary experience, the app never prompts you to get comfortable and have a seat before the show. The user does not know they can sit, until several minutes in when they get tired of standing for no reason. Once sitting and settled the experience is much more comfortable, except about six minutes into the twenty minute experience vertigo started kick in. The fading to black between set changes is likely one of the main reasons the experience was so physically nauseating.
The function visual decisions in Traveling While Black created legible and straightforward interfaces. In terms of propelling the app's emotional and educational mission, the design choices for the user interface (UI) were pretty basic and not evocative.
Overall, Traveling While Black is a beautifully produced VR app that tells an immersive story of some of the hardships Black Americans have faced. The user interface was simple and it successfully serves the purpose of navigating the user to the experience. While there are plenty of improvements that could be made to enhance the experience and user interface components, the primary focus for improving the experience should be figuring out how to reduce vertigo for viewers.