Ideas

All around the world, agencies for sustainable development are becoming attuned to the value of immersive storytelling technologies - like 360° video, virtual reality, augmented reality and gamification - to galvanize a bigger, stronger network of changemakers. To support the exploration of technology-driven ways to engage global audiences around ideas for progress, the innovationXchange of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT) hosted a ‘Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality (VR/AR) Hack’ that focused on development, food and nutrition on October 6, 2016, in Canberra, Australia.


The VR/AR Hack brought together some of the best and brightest minds to rethink systemic obstacles to global food quality and access. More than 40 food and nutrition experts, VR and AR practitioners, and marketers joined us in conversations around leveraging new storytelling tools for change.


Below, check out the five key ideas* that came out of the innovationXchange/DFAT ‘VR/AR Hack’:


GROUP 1

IDEA:

What is the concept, experience, etc. that you want to create/design?

To create an interactive VR experience, from the vantage point of a malnourished child.


What concept or experience are you designing for the user?

A virtual reality experience geared toward decision-makers that shows what it’s like to experience malnutrition in childhood. This interactive VR experience will place viewers in the shoes of a child in a classroom who is suffering from the effects of malnutrition.


Chronic malnutrition in children manifests as more than just hunger. For example, it can cause stunting, which limits a child’s potential throughout each part of development.


ISSUE:

What issue are you addressing? What needs is your design meant to meet?

The challenge is to create empathy in the viewer by allowing them to experience the effects of malnutrition. By creating a personalized, interactive experience, the viewer can connect to problems they may otherwise never witness. In the context of international development, intimate and immersive experiences can be a powerful tool to engage donors, policymakers, and politicians around foreign aid investment. The primary focus is to create empathy around malnutrition and change perceptions of foreign aid among decision makers, including key donors, politicians, and policymakers. Conferences offer an ideal opportunity to share these experiences because attendees are already in a mindset of how to translate empathy to action.


MEDIUM:

What medium are you using?

This will be an interactive virtual reality experience that demonstrates the effects of malnutrition on one’s ability to concentrate. For example, let’s say the viewer experiences a character who is directly talking to them within the narrative. After several seconds, that character’s voice might become muffled and the image will start to blur, mirroring the effects of malnutrition on one’s ability to focus.


As the experience is deployed with a headset, the viewer’s arm motions could be mirrored inside the narrative. This experience could pioneer techniques around being able to freely use arms without the use of motion sensors, to further personalize the experience. Key messages placed on title cards at the end of the experience will serve to raise awareness of the power of aid for solving the problem of malnutrition.


WHY:

Why have you chosen this particular idea and medium?

Personalized experiences of global problems for donors and policymakers can be transformative and powerful, and simplify conversations about action. This experience offers its viewers a pathway to specific action points in order to channel emotion into action and investment. For example, the U.N.’s Clouds over Sidra-- a VR piece on a Syrian refugee camp-- was screened during a recent humanitarian fundraising conference that generated $1.5 billion USD more than the anticipated funding of $2.3 billion USD (Fast Company).


CHALLENGES:

What challenges does this project face? What barriers must be overcome for this idea to be successful?

This project’s scalability for a general market may not be feasible in its current form, which is why we’re focusing on decision-makers first. Additionally, the experience could become diluted and less personal, if translated to more accessible platforms (for example, into a 360˚ video for Facebook).


DESIRED IMPACT:

What specific global change(s) will your idea, concept or experience support?

  • Emotional engagement with high-level decision makers.

  • Evolved perceptions around foreign aid.

  • Measurable physical or psychological impacts on audience, ultimately leading to positive impact in the communities the experience depicts.


FEEDBACK:

  • Does not need to be localized for any particular country

  • VR scalability is challenging

  • What’s the call to action at the end of this? What emotional and behavioral reaction is the project aiming to instill in its viewers?


GROUP 2

IDEA:

What is the concept, experience, etc. that you want to create/design?  


The Power of Legends - This multimedia gaming experience centers on a local hero or legend, and connects their legendary status with better food choices. Core to the idea is how to use the power of storytelling to engage an audience.

The audience will be immersed in the experience through multiple, integrated media platforms ranging from video games to VR to playing cards. The protagonists would be comprised of four character models. Developers can dynamically generate customizable aspects of character design using procedural generation, which enables the character design process to be more cost effective.   


ISSUE:

What issue are you addressing? What needs is your design meant to meet?

How to empower children to make good food choices that give them the energy to succeed. This approach encourages children to make healthy food choices by bringing a sense of fun and pride to traditional, non-processed diets.


MEDIUM:

What medium are you using?


Five different, connected media platforms would enable the experience to be tailored to various contexts:

  1. Traditional videos (5-10 minutes in length), that establish the narrative.

  2. Tamagotchi-style video game, to demonstrate how good food choices equate to longevity and personal/professional success.

  3. Virtual reality experience that travels between schools. In this experience, the user assists an injured “hero” on a quest to choose the correct food that can return them to the game.

  4. Traditional virtual reality experience, in which the user sits around a campfire (or another culturally relevant storytelling environment) with a “legendary hero”, who shares a story that emphasizes how healthy food choices helped them in battle.

  5. Physical, competitive card game that children may collect, keep, and take to school, in which cards are valued by food choice. This could also use AR to be more engaging.


WHY:

Why have you chosen this particular idea and medium?

  • The multidimensional aspect of the game means it can be agile, modular and localised to different contexts. We can use one or more of the mediums depending on the situation.

  • We’re specifically integrating virtual reality because this uniquely engaging format has the power to change behaviors and attitudes.

  • Cultural role models, tailored to local contexts, model healthy behavior for children, especially for those who are not seeing healthy eating habits modeled in their own homes.


CHALLENGES:

What challenges does this project face? What barriers must be overcome for this idea to be successful?

  • How to ensure content is strategically localized. For example, by using relevant regional characters.

  • How to gain community buy-in, both from schools that are invited to participate in the experience and from communities.

  • How to overcoming internet access issues.

  • How to achieve gender balance in characters.


DESIRED IMPACT:

What specific global change(s) will your idea, concept or experience support?

To raise awareness of the advantages of healthier eating options and the choices individuals can make to embrace healthier options.

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GROUP 3

IDEA:

What is the concept, experience, etc. that you want to create/design?  


Pasifik Kitchen: A multi-stage cooking competition across 16 Pacific countries, in which contestants compete to be named the greatest cook.


ISSUE:

What issue are you addressing? What needs is your design meant to meet?

  • Reinvent traditional foods to create modern regional cooking-style.

  • Reinstate cooking as a core part of healthy lifestyle.

  • A return to traditional, local, and fresh foods.

  • Export Pacific Islands cuisine around the world.


MEDIUM:

What medium are you using?

This idea taps into the competitive structure of reality shows. While it is not directly related to VR/AR, it is a form of gamification. Most people in the Pacific region have radio, so this multi-platform cooking contest show would be anchored to local radio. Other platforms may include Facebook, podcasts, broadcast TV and text messaging.

  1. Local radio networks source cooking talent.

  2. Local celebrities judge early rounds.

  3. Narrow down to three contestants, per country.

  4. National audience poll selects national champion, via text or Facebook.

  5. Each national finalist competes from a central location.

    1. A cook-off elimination reduces contestant pool: 16 -> 8 -> 4 -> 2 -> 1

    2. Each cook-off is captured as video content with a host. Broadcast on television, Facebook and radio.

  6. Final Grand Pacific Chef wins desirable prizes, such as a car, boat, island, cookbook deal, etc.


WHY:

Why have you chosen this particular idea and medium?

  • Reality TV contests are popular. They create conversations within communities (water cooler discussions) and encourage people to aspire toward better lifestyles, as in Australia’s Biggest Loser. Documentary-style reality television is capable of creating public demand, in a way that leads to concrete effects. For example, the documentary Supersize Me had a measurable effect on the McDonald’s menu.

  • Each cook-off round would feature food from a different country and showcase healthy regional meals.

  • Radio exists and is popular in the Pacific region.


CHALLENGES:

What challenges does this project face? What barriers must be overcome for this idea to be successful?

  • Language difficulties could arise due to the region’s diversity of languages. Using local radio stations could help mitigate this issue, as the competition may need to unfold differently, depending on culture and location.

  • How to maintain authenticity and local relevancy.

  • How to maintain transparency and keep participation organic.


DESIRED IMPACT:

What specific global change(s) will your idea, concept or experience support?

  • Start conversations around food.

  • Make people aspire to cooking with good, fresh and diverse ingredients.

  • Give traditional foods higher status.

  • Kick-start a cooking movement around modern Pacific cuisine.




GROUP 4

IDEA:

What is the concept, experience, etc. that you want to create/design?  


“Locavore Hero: Tasty Tonga edition”

An augmented reality game that encourages users to source local ingredients and learn recipes. It allows the user to digitally and physically explore their home environment while collecting local food items and learning how to cook with them.


ISSUE:

What issue are you addressing? What needs is your design meant to meet?

This game seeks to address a disconnect in the inter-generational sharing of recipes and cooking skills in the Pacific region. The influx of unhealthy processed Western foods has led to a loss of cooking knowledge, as well as an under-appreciation for the nutritional value of local foods. This loss has been exacerbated by the low cost and pervasiveness of unhealthy foods.


MEDIUM:

What medium are you using?

Features include:

  • Geomapping of local areas.

  • Key points of food significance.

  • How to unlock real recipes and learn to cook with them, through mini-games.

  • How to share your recipes with friends and family.

  • Opportunity to embark on weekly missions, to cook celebrities’ or heroes’ favorite foods.

  • Augmented reality photo capture.


Notes

  • This game draws on Pokemon Go & Cooking Mama, which have mechanics with proven retention rates.

  • The penetration rate of mobile phones in Tonga is 65% and is predicted to rise, so phones are becoming a more effective way to engage children.

  • The game could be developed in 6 months-1 year, depending on whether or not necessary data is available and accessible. Its development costs would depend on the number of features, but would be approximately $250-600k. A prototype could be built for $60K. Once developed, updates for different locations would be less cost intensive.


WHY:

Why have you chosen this particular idea and medium?

  • Cooking is something that resonates with everyone, so it is a good way to make the connection between choice, access and pervasive challenges.

  • We know that all children enjoy game play. This idea uses proven mechanics to encourage their engagement with healthy cooking.


CHALLENGES:

What challenges does this project face? What barriers must be overcome for this idea to be successful?

  • Regional mobile phone penetration is still below 100%; therefore, access won’t be ubiquitous.

  • Network challenges may exist depending on location.

  • School-aged children may not have access to smartphones.

  • The game may lack longevity. There were some concerns that past augmented reality games have not been successful; however, Pokemon Go broke through this stigma and brought AR into mainstream popular culture.


DESIRED IMPACT:

What specific global change(s) will your idea, concept or experience support?

Children would learn to recognize, source, and cook simple meals with healthy and accessible food.


GROUP 5

IDEA:

What is the concept, experience, etc. that you want to create/design?  


A pilot program, centered on both digital and physical tools, that supports and motivates communities to enable better nutritional decisions. It would run for 3,000 days.


ISSUE:

What issue are you addressing? What needs is your design meant to meet?

The first 1,000 days of life are critical for longevity. Poor nutritional decisions made during this time can result in long-term stunting or obesity. Currently, external factors are leading individuals toward poor choices. A comprehensive community response is required for sustainable, meaningful change.


MEDIUM:

What medium are you using?

This program uses a blend of digital and physical tools, including an episodic, mobile virtual reality experience that is shared during physical meetings, as well as a digital parent log that tracks nutrition-related milestones over the 1,000 days, and allows parents to log progress against community-set goals.


Through this suite of gamified mobile digital tools, communities can set tasks and goals, track progress, and earn achievements that encourage healthy food choices during the first 1,000 days of life. These tools are used at a family level, by health practitioners, and by community leaders.


We begin each 1,000 day journey with a virtual reality experience. This may involve experiencing the consequences of poor food choices, such as images or videos that depict childhood stunting. Communities’ use of the digital tools are supported by regular, in-person check-ins that provide an opportunity to consider the log data and realign individual actions with community-set goals. These gatherings, also, provide community health workers to engage people in education and awareness sessions.


WHY:

Why have you chosen this particular idea and medium?

  • To encourage healthy behaviors at the community level, by recognizing the influence of community on individual actions.

  • Draw attention to the critical importance of a child’s first 1,000 days of development.

  • Frequent community gatherings with health professionals and community virtual reality  experiences could continuously renew attraction to the campaign.

  • Motivation is important for sustaining behavioural change, and these tools are useful for being able to bring in right information to the individual.


CHALLENGES:

What challenges does this project face? What barriers must be overcome for this idea to be successful?

  • Cost.

  • Telecommunication structure and internet access.

  • Lack of community involvement/ motivation is possible. Thus, the design process should engage community stakeholders, to ensure it is something they could and would want to use.

  • Longevity: 1,000 days is a long time, so game design must clearly and specifically delineate the project’s trajectory.

  • The program may not inspire behavioral change.

  • If there is a systemic failure, the game could make it seem like an individual user is at fault, so messaging has to be strategic and sensitive.


DESIRED IMPACT:

What specific global change(s) will your idea, concept or experience support?

Communities will choose and commit to a custom timeline to achieve 0% stunting


*This session was strictly for ideation; no commitment has been made to fund the resulting ideas by DFAT or any other entity involved.

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