It is a virtual educational simulation aimed to educate both kids and parents in the Donbas region on the invisible dangers in their region. It consists of an immersive 10-minute simulation video in which users learn about the signs of danger on an imaginary journey home and the way to bypass them safely.
After learning about the dangerous conditions in which kids were living in Eastern Ukraine, UNICEF began to look for a means to curb mine-related accidents in the region.
Together with the IT Ukraine Association, UNICEF wanted to increase awareness amongst kids on the risks posed by mines in Donbas.
The first thing they needed to achieve their goal was interactive VR product.They believed such a product would make it much easier to teach the children the survival skills that will keep them safe.
UNICEF was looking to save the future generation. So, they reached out to us and MacPaw for the creation of the Mine Awareness VR.
The territory of Donbas has been transformed into a warzone since the Russo-Ukrainian War broke out in 2014. As a result, the buildings, forests, and fields in the territory are now filled with mines and unexploded ordnance.
Little children growing up in these dangerous environments have no idea of what happened a while ago. So, they unknowingly step into perilous grounds whenever they wander away from their homes.
Data provided by UNICEF shows that one out of every three accidents experienced by kids in the area has been caused by remnants of war. This is not the way that little kids should live.
To save the lives of children in Eastern Ukraine, UNICEF decided to launch the Mine Awareness project. The goal of this project is to educate both kids and parents in the region on the invisible dangers in their environments. For this reason, UNICEF came to us for the development of an immersive training simulator that would make the process more effective.
As always, we started by gathering as much information as possible about the task before kickstarting the project. Our team studied the prospective users of the product and the dangers surrounding them.
The team spent around 50 hours reading about, listening to, and having conversations with veterans of Eastern Ukraine. As we got a better idea of the situation, we felt a need to change some of the earlier plans for the app.
One of the things we learned was that the majority of the kids that the platform was dedicated to were born after the conflict escalated. So, they had lived their entire lives around remnants of war.
This showed us that our task was more than just stopping them from picking up harmful objects. We also had to help them understand how harmful the objects are.
We understood that both the children and their parents have never had a virtual experience like this. So, we had to ensure that it would be easy for them to learn and understand.
To achieve this, we utilized a combination of 360 video spheres and 3D spaces that shift throughout the plot. In the beginning, the users find themselves at the center of the photometry of Eastern Ukraine with information on the task to be completed. They are then transferred to an interactive copy of the space from which they can learn.
The video of the sphere was recorded in the conflict zone by an experienced war journalist. This was necessary to absorb the users into cyberspace. All shots were taken twice, from the line of sight of an adult and that of a child.
The Mine Awareness VR app wasn’t about just the kids. Their parents were also exposed to these hazards every day, albeit in another way. While the kids go into hazardous areas for fun, their parents went into these spaces to search for scrap metal which they could.
So, we had to show both parents and children the dangers around them – in a virtual space. Our team developed an immersive 10-minute simulation video in which users learn about the signs of danger on an imaginary journey home.
They also learn about dangerous environments, how to recognize unknown objects around them, and ultimately bypass them safely. Also, the virtual trip is accompanied by a voice companion that provides hints throughout the journey.
The children’s version of the app features cartoonish graphics and a helping voice that comes from the hero of the super team as he leads the way.
Safety remains a priority throughout the simulation. It was designed in a way that the users won’t stand the risk of stepping on mines. We achieved this by addressing potential dangers with the system of the road and warning signs. We also ensured that the users don’t interact with objects directly.
There are differences between the presentation, tips, and visual design of the spaces meant for children and adults. This was necessary to ensure that the right words were chosen for each group of users. Specialists from UNICEF assisted during this process.
As we mentioned earlier, we had to partner with MacPaw to create the necessary solution. We focused on the VR part while MacPaw was in charge of VR glasses. The VR glasses granted users access to the virtual journey we created.
Understanding the goals of the project and the best way to get across to the different groups of users
Coming up with the concept of the scenario and the general UX design of the simulation
The collection and study of data provided by UNICEF and then, enhancing the scenario with it
Technical development of the project along with the deliverables
Testing with beta test groups and app polishing
The Mine Awareness VR project was a project that held a lot of importance. So, it took the collaboration of experts from different fields to achieve UNICEF’s goal.
Though we have been able to help children in Eastern Ukraine, the painful truth is that there are other vulnerable children in conflict zones around the world. Fortunately, the Mine Awareness VR app has all it takes to become a new standard for training personal safety.
Virtual simulation is the safest and most effective way of teaching children about dangerous places and how they can avoid hazards.
The content blocks used in developing the app can be modified and altered according to the situation. For example, 360 spheres can be removed, and the content of the landscape can be modified. This gives room for the development of other training simulators.