2022 AMI Online Salon

VR Virus Builder

Project Detail

  • Entrant Name:  Natalie Krug
  • Other Contributors:  Ryan Nini, Olivia Dodds, Yilin Li
    Client:  University of Illinois Chicago
  • Copyright:  Olivia Dodds, Natalie Krug, Ryan Nini, and Yilin Li, 2021
  • Medium/software used: Blender, Unity, and Adobe Suite
  • Final presentation format: Video
  • Primary Audience: General audience

Project Description

VR Virus Builder is an interactive immersive experience designed for a museum setting. Lay users are introduced to bacteriophage structure and function, tied to the primary game mechanic where users combine missing components (nucleocapsid, body, and/or tail) to partially completed viruses. Users must then “load” the completed bacteriophages into a cannon used to destroy a bacterial infection. This secondary game mechanic reinforces a secondary learning objective of the antibiotic potential of bacteriophages. Given the hesitancy towards novel, genetically engineered therapeutics, the social impact of this interactive is to create an engaging experience that effectively conveys otherwise unapproachable information about virus-derived therapeutics. Serving these learning objectives, a toon shader aesthetic was chosen to eliminate users’ fixation on textural details. Glowing effects and halos were applied to different actions to direct audience interaction. An example can be seen when spawning a new, incomplete virus after loading the canon. Functionality as a whole was limited to grabbing and button pushes to promote quick engagement without adding a steep learning curve for new users. Additionally, large didactic panels are placed behind the user to display the lifecycle of a bacteriophage and the function of its various parts, reinforcing learning information conveyed through active participation.