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MetaPets

The MetaPets project aimed to integrate storytelling into the Metaverse by creating a framework for users to easily implement their stories on the platform. To enhance user engagement and comfort, the team utilized pets as a bonding point, designing a 'build your own dog' feature that allows users to have a loyal companion by their side within the Metaverse.

Project Role

Researcher, designer, tester, and writer on the design brief.  

Problem

Although the Metaverse is continually evolving, there is currently no set space for pets in the Metaverse. The current lack of pets within the Metaverse, the impact of adding pets, and the future role of pets in the Metaverse are all things we hope to address with this project. 

Goal

Our team aimed to bring the concept of virtual pets to life through a graphic design prototype. Using a storyboard approach, we demonstrated how users could create their own pets in the Metaverse system step-by-step. Our mid-fidelity prototype, created with Figma, showcases detailed pet graphics without coding. Although we lacked the experience to produce high-fidelity moving characters, our design expertise allowed us to craft a polished mid-fidelity prototype that met our project goals.

Research

The team researched academic articles about the use of pets within the Metaverse as well as other ways to utilize them.  Our team found these articles the most helpful when researching for our project:

  • Embodies Conversational Agents: Technologies to Support Older Adults with Mild Cognitive Impairment. Demiris et. al (2017)

  • Investigating Augmented Reality Animals as Companions. Norouzi et. al (2019)

  • “My Avatar and Her Beloved Possession”: Characteristics of Attachment to Virtual Objects. Nagay & Koles (2014)

  • The Impact of Owner Age on Companionship with Virtual Pets. Lawson & Chesney (2007)

  • Using Virtual Pets to Promote Physical Activity in Children: An Application of the Youth Physical Activity Promotion Model. Ahn et. al (2015)

From this research, the main points our team discovered:

Virtual pets can help alleviate loneliness 

Younger generations are more interested in virtual pets than older generations.

Children are more likely to follow suit on what their digital pet is doing

Prototype

Our team developed software prototype that allows users to create and customize their own pets to accompany them across different worlds in the Metaverse. The software features a step-by-step process to build a custom pet or randomize one, with three different modes available: low, medium, and high. In low mode, pets perform basic functions like staying home. Medium mode allows users to bring the pet with them on their Metaverse journeys, while high mode empowers users to assign tasks to the pet, such as fetching an item from another world. The pet can also enter desktop mode and serve as a helpful bot when needed.

Testing

Our team tested the mid-fidelity prototype with younger generations and asked questions about Metaverse knowledge, technology experience, and online gaming. Users with limited Metaverse knowledge found the program confusing, while more knowledgeable users desired more advanced controls. The team categorized and summarized the feedback to gain an overall understanding of user opinions.

Prototype Results
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