Virtual Reality at Xbox

Over a year, I worked on small team of designers/technical artist envisioning the future of virtual reality at Xbox.

We explored high level concepts ranging from interaction models to the design of the virtual reality home. My role was visual designer, illustrator, storyboarder, and prototyper.

One of our first tasks was envisioning a Virtual Reality “home.”

When we approached this problem we asked ourselves what kind of space we would want to be teleported to the first time and every time we put on this headset, and asked ourselves why that was.

We gathered images of places and things that we would want to be our this space or apart of this space. After creating moodboards for interiors and exteriors, themes emerged. From our interior moodboards, light, simplistic architecture, lived-in elements, and nature. And from our exterior moodboard, the emphasis of a large scale world, repetition that augmented that scale, nature, and proof of life.

Water around the user works at a soft barrier, over hangs give a feeling of security without confinement, and buildings similar to the one the user is standing on extend into the horizon to inform the larger environment.

It’s our nature to like light, to be in touch with mother nature, to prefer simplicity over complexity, to feel like we’re not alone in a sterile environment, and to find comfort in there being more out there to experience.

To create larger contrast between the interface and the environment, this concept put the user in a darker time of day.

Further research into environmental design reinforced our assumptions and informed us of prospect-refuge theory, which suggests that the spaces we find most acceptable, present us with great opportunity while in a place of safety. With this understanding, I sketched and painted concepts for a home.

A simple villa surrounded by water with a hard barrier. A bridge extends to a far away island to convey scale, distance, and freedom.

We then asked ourselves how would the interface fit in this world.

Using what we knew about the best practices for virtual reality, we attempted to rapidly mock up and prototype our vision of virtual reality experiences on Xbox. I modeled simple environments and slates in Cinema 4D and programmed prorotypes in Unity on the Oculus headset.

A prototype of the the Xbox interface in virtual reality.
A prototype of avatar creation.
Volumetric UI anchored to hand position.
Planar UI anchored to hand position.
Messaging in VR.