vcamp: unconferences | service design & branding| Fall 2019

vcamp

a mixed reality conference experience

Unconferences, a popular conference model, have a predefined structure but undefined topics. The topics are defined by the participants so that each unconference is unique, social, and ever–changing. Unconferences create unique environments to facilitate deep learning. The goal for this project was to bring its key values to a wider audience.  

my role

user research

project manager

the team

Charlie Dabbs

Steve Kangisser

our approach

tackling a business opportunity through service design

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Understand

INTERVIEWS

OBSERVATION

EMPATHY & JOURNEY MAPS

putting it together

what did I learn?

Ideate

AFFINITY MAPPING

STORYBOARD

VALUE CREATION MODEL

Prototype

TO-BE JOURNEY MAPPING

TECHNOLOGY AUDIT

INTERVIEWS

Pitch

BUSINESS MODEL CANVAS

SERVICE DESIGN BLUEPRINT 

SAMPLE VISUAL DESIGNS

vcamp is the mixed reality experience of an unconference, making the conference available for virtual and physical participants. How to attend is merely a choice.

The vcamp platform enhances the unconference experience for physical &  virtual attendees, presenters, and sponsors. It creates opportunities for:

  • increased attendance

  • broader networking opportunities & casual social interactions

  • enhanced facilitation tools

  • reduced environmental impacts associated with typical conference travel

At the time of this project, the implementation of a mixed reality conference felt very far out. I never imagined how relevant this would be a few months later due to the covid-19 pandemic.

 

In retrospect, I wish we did more extensive prototyping and evaluated interfaces of the mock platform. We focused our attention on translating insights from research into a proof-of-concept, really researching how emerging technology could be utilized in this type of experience because there were so few examples. 

problem statement

How can we leverage current and emerging technologies to shape future unconferences and enhance global interpersonal communication?

what were my responsibilities?

  • conducted initial research, interviewed stakeholders, synthesized findings

  • observed and participated in an unconference

  • developed visuals to complement the brand mark

  • ran meetings and made sure team stayed on track to accomplish goals

what was the design process?

so, what’s an unconference? 

An unconference is a conference that is organized, structured, and led by the people attending.

Unconferences have a predefined structure but undefined topics. The topics are determined by the participants at the beginning of the event. Because of it’s customization, each unconference is unique, social, and ever–changing.

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how does an unconference work?

Open Space Technology is a method for organizing events focused on a particular topic. It’s the guiding force that make unconferences as valuable as they are. 

what are the activities and components of unconferences?

EVENT OPENING

The event begins with welcoming remarks. An empty agenda with open time slots is on display as participants arrive. Participants pitch topics to discuss and attendees vote on topics. Subjects with the most votes comprise the agenda. 

 

SESSIONS

If your topic wins, it’s your responsibility to attend the session and introduce the topic. However, you don’t have to know anything about the subject. That’s one of the beauties of an unconference and how it promotes learning and networking. Session topics are also documented for other attendees. 

 

LAW OF TWO FEET

If you don’t like the session you are in, leave. The Law of Two Feet guides the event: if you’re not learning or contributing, leave, and find another session where you can.

 

CONCLUSION

The event concludes with a large group meeting to recap the sessions and themes of the day. It usually leads to after-event networking. 

Certain components are consistent throughout all unconferences and largely influence its success. Creating an ecosystem map was our first step visualizing the activities, people, and tools at play making these events work. 

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Unconference ecosystem map

what's the experience like?

Through a series of user and expert interviews, journey mapping, and first-hand observation, we identified design opportunities to enhance the unconference experience.

INTERVIEWS

We interviewed two unconference organizers and one first-time attendee. Our semi-structured interviews focused on the experience, planning, participation, and networking aspects of an unconference. 

JOURNEY & EMPATHY MAPS

We distilled the data into 3 journey and empathy maps to understand not only what the user experienced, but how they felt during the experience.

OBSERVATION

We jumped into the action to get a first-hand experience of unconferences.

Journey Map - 1 of 3

Empathy Map - 1 of 3

Observation

We attended an unconference, focused on product management, marketing and UX. About 150 people attended, and over 30 people pitched conference session topics. The energy and excitement in the room was palpable and surprising, given that it was a Saturday.

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what insights came from our research?

“Unconferences are less about the topic and more about the people. If you have quality attendees, it will be

a more powerful event.”

- Mike, interviewee

#1 - BETTER-THAN-AVERAGE NETWORKING

The primary selling point of an unconference is event customization and the authentic industry relationships you develop along the way. 

 

#2 -INHERENT LIMITATION

Being physically present actually limits the potential expertise in the room

 

#3 - PLANNING IS CHALLENGING

Management and planning of unconferences can be unwieldy. It’s a challenge to manage volunteers, event promotion and marketing are usually limited. It’s hard  to communicate the value of attending when you don’t know the topics. 

#4 - PARENT STRUCTURE / CUSTOMIZATION

"Parent" unconference brands like EdCamp and ProductCamp promote localization and personalization of subsidiary unconferences. They provide planning tools and resources, also assisting with marketing and fundraising.

revised problem statement

NARROWED SCOPE

Unconferences are dependent on skillful facilitators, participatory attendees, and ample networking in order to be successful. Inadequate facilitators, a limited option of topics, and low attendance rates greatly impact the quality and relative success of an unconference. 

DESIGN GOAL

How can we leverage emerging and current technology to shape future unconferences and enhance global interpersonal communication?

ideation

We began ideation by imagining possibilities for remote conference participation beyond "calling-in" or live-streaming. 

We used affinity mapping, body-storming, and rapid prototyping to ideate opportunities to improve the unconference experience. Our aim was to build upon the strengths of an unconference while also addressing its shortcomings.

 

KEY QUESTIONS

  • If the true value of an unconference lies in participation, how can you capitalize on the experience of participation while being remote? 

  • What opportunities exist remotely for stakeholders from all levels? 

  • How do you create a digital experience that mirrors the richness of an in-person experience?

2. "Meet" other virtual attendees

3. Display of speaker/ topics on screen with ability to vote

4. Remote participants are seated separately during intro session

5. All participants use AR tools during sessions

6. Remote and physical participants sit together during sessions

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Simple journey maps and storyboards helped form and think through a future experience

what technology is needed to bring this concept into reality?

We researched current and emerging technologies that could shape a new platform for conferences. We aimed for a shift in conference attendance where in attending in physical reality is not the best, it's just a choice.

 

Augmented and virtual reality permit use of a wide range of tools, including casting notes, three dimensional boards, and virtual products. Speakers can freely move around the room as they present.

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top left: product demonstration using Spatial tools; above: use of Holoportation by Microsoft; both right: use of 3D board tools using Spatial

what could a mixed-reality experience feel like?

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how does this create value for stakeholders?

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how does this solution create value?

what components are needed for this solution to work?

We created a service design blueprint to refine and identify functional details for a mixed reality unconference. We included different functional design aspects of both a remote attendee, an in-person attendee, how these two systems integrate, and dove deep into the technology available and what's needed to bring this concept to reality. 

Below is a schematic of what details are included in a service design blueprint.

View our Blueprint here

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putting it all together 

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vcamp is the mixed reality experience of an unconference. vCamp greatly enhances the unconference experience for physical attendees, virtual attendees, presenters, and sponsors. It allows increased attendance, wider opportunities for networking and social interaction, enhanced facilitation tools, and can help reduce the environmental impact of unconferences. AR conferences require specialized hardware, software, and knowhow. vCamp supplies the rig, glasses, platform, and brings everything together on a single platform.

 

Unconference attendance is now available for all to all both physically and virtually. How to attend is merely a choice.

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