Virtual Field Lab is an ongoing virtual reality research project in collaboration between ACCAD and the College of Social Work at The Ohio State University. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, social work students could no longer visit their field training sites in person. This VR simulation allows the social work students to embody someone they would potentially work with during their careers and experience the struggles some of their clients face. The users embody the main character Stephan who needs to get to his daughter by a set time, but he recently lost his job and apartment and he has to go to the public library to fill out an application for food assistance and medical benefits, as well as visit the food pantry to pick up some items for his daughter. This simulation allows students to experience some of the anxiety that comes with facing such challenges, which gives them a unique perspective into someone else's life and problems, leading them to empathize more when helping clients during difficult times. The goal is to provide an effective virtual training experience that can be incorporated as a supplemental resource to the regular curriculum and field activities.
Responsibilities: During my ACCAD Graduate Research Associateship, I worked on the Library and Food Pantry scenes in Unity, and I 3D modeled some environment assets and grabbable items for the shelves. I created posters for the virtual pantry, signage, item packaging, and flyers that users can find scattered around different spaces. I designed the magazines and some book covers for the virtual library that the users can pick up and interact with. I also helped during user testing sessions, and I conducted research and visits to relevant sites in order to collect realistic references for the virtual environments and assets.
Team: Maria Palazzi, Vita Berezina-Blackburn, Jeremy Patterson, Shadrick Addy, Lauren Mclnroy, Katie Klakos, Catherine Hechmer, M.F. Yang Chen, Maya Jenkins, Sruthi Ammannagari, Heran Zhou, Mila Gajic
In the Virtual Field Lab experience, the user is first introduced to the character's life and current circumstances - losing a job, relying on the local food pantry, and currently staying over at a friend's apartment. The main character that the user embodies needs to get to his daughter by a set time, but before they need to take a bus to the virtual public library where they have to wait a few minutes for a computer to become available. In the meantime, they can interact with the animated characters and there are also objects that the user can pick up such as magazines and building blocks. On the computer, the user needs to fill out a medical and food assistance application. This is the time when the user takes off the VR headset and fills out a replica of the application on their own computer. After resuming the VR simulation, the user is taking a bus to the food pantry. In the pantry, they have a written list of items they need to pick up, and they do this by using the VR hand controllers to pick up virtual items and put them in a basket. While picking up food items, the user gets a virtual phone call from a friend that says he cannot stay at the friend's place anymore, adding to the list of challenges the main character is already dealing with. Time is running out before the user needs to come to get his daughter, so he has to leave the pantry before picking up everything that he needed.