Lessons Learned from Prototyping VR Apps + Weird Reality Conference 

Stefan Welker (GoogleVR / Daydream Lab)

VR is something I’m not too knowledgeable about (yet), and still skeptical. The Weird Reality conference was my first exposure and experience related to this technology. I’m mostly concerned because of the potential motion sickness one can get from staying in a VR environment and the consequences from becoming disconnected from the physical world. But this conference has changed my perspective to view VR as a medium to further understand our natural world, collaborate in interdisciplinary teams, and help those experience or see something they normally cannot.

I was really intrigued by Stefan’s talk because of the parallels I saw between the way Google Daydream Lab approaches to designing for VR and the design process that I’ve been learning and applying in school. In design, we learn to feel comfortable with failure in order to improve; to iterate and test quickly to find the most appropriate solution to a problem. Stefan described their motto as Explore everything. Fail fast. Learn fast. It almost feels like they are in a rush to learn everything in order to have VR become a more widely accepted and helpful tool. In the past year they’ve built two new app prototypes each week, and the successes and failures show in just a few examples out of many that Stefan shared with us. Stefan even joked that their teams thought it wasn’t sustainable at first.

Lots of realizations, setting criteria, challenges and discussions arose from their experiments like

  • users will test the limits of VR
  • without constraints in a multi-player setting, users may invade the privacy or personal space of other users
  • users can troll by not participating or responding in a timely manner
  • ice breakers are also important in a social VR setting because without an initiation of some sort, their is still social awkwardness
  • cloning and throwing objects is a lot of fun (experienced the throwing aspect in  the Institute for New Feeling’s Ditherer, in which it was possible to throw avocados on the ground)
  • adding play and whimsy into VR because you can and it’s fun


Even after listing some of these observations, I realize that with the seemingly limitless explorations that VR provides, understanding natural human behavior and psychology is integral in creating an environment and situation that encourages positive behavior from users.

Ultimately, (as cliche as this sounds), Stefan’s talk and the Weird Reality Conference opened up a new world for me in terms of the new possibilities and responsibilities that come with designing for VR, or AR.

As Vi Hart says, VR is powerful; designer and developer’s have the ability to create anything in their imagination, and user’s will have new found capabilities to experience the sublime and fly, or maybe flap.

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