HXRC Team: Applying XR Design to fun and education

Jul 13, 2022

Laura Lehtinen spent the spring of 2022 as a part of HXRC’s trainee team working on the Future Touchless Shop project. Her most successful project was an AR game where a player would help a snow critter find its home in a snow globe. Read more about it and the work on an AR measurement app and work with Kaapelitehdas below!

Laura Lehtinen, who worked on Future Touchless Shop projects.

Text and pictures by Laura Lehtinen

Applying for internships is usually something that’s reserved for those almost done with their studies – third- and fourth-year students have gone through all the necessary coursework and some school projects, and are ready to move one step closer to the working life: internships in relevant companies.

This was not the case for me.

Hi, I’m Laura, a second-year XR Design student from Metropolia UAS who needed an extra challenge for the spring semester. I applied for an internship with HXRC just to see if I qualify – and I did, somehow managing to convince Santeri Saarinen to give me a chance!

I started working in January 2022 with a group of other interns with different backgrounds, like engineering and 3D. On January 17th we assembled, getting to know each other and figuring out our individual tasks.

Starting out on the Future Touchless Shop prototypes

One of the main projects we worked on (and as of summer 2022 I still continue to work on!) was Future Touchless Shop. It’s an EU-funded project prototyping how XR content can be used in traditional brick-and-mortar stores to enhance the shopping experience.

We quickly started on the first prototype: a concept for a room measurement app that would utilize both of the most widely-known XR technologies: AR and VR. The idea was to map out rooms/spaces in AR mode, then bring the data into VR and use it to create a room with the same measurements. Using the real-world floorplan, the user could decorate the space in VR.

Measuring the HXRC Showroom in AR.

This prototype was carried out for a while, but it ended up being dropped: our partners at Haaga-Helia UAS presented this among other prototypes for the companies partnering with the project, and no one ended up picking this one. Even though we moved on to another prototype, this one had potential too, and its framework can be used in future projects.

A pile of couches in VR.

Ever wondered how your room would look like with a pile of couches in it..?

Second try – first success

The second project – and the first one to be actually used in a store – was a game concept with AR content for Lumi Accessories. The goal for the customer was to complete a simple game, screenshot the AR content, and get a prize (a discount at the real-life store). On the other hand the goal for us and our partners at Haaga-Helia was to gather data about the users: how many times the game was played, where did the player find it, did the same players return, and how did they like the game. The prototype is available for a test period during the summer of 2022 at the Lumi Accessories store in Helsinki.

For this project I worked on the gameplay mechanics and overall design of the prototype – what kind of game it is, what type of AR it contains and what the experience is like for the user. That involved making a lot of lists, plans and design documents which I presented for the rest of the team and the company we worked with.

Playtesting the Lumi Accessories game on PC.

Since the game is marketed towards customers with little to no experience in gaming, we had to pay special attention to making it easy to use, short and sweet. And browser-based, which provided a good amount of challenge, since using the tools I’m accustomed to wasn’t an option and I had to learn a new platform and use a coding language I’m not familiar with. But that’s part of being an XR designer – you keep learning as you go and see what works out for your current project.

Start menu for the Lumi Accessories game.

Start menu for the Lumi Accessories game.

Early version from inside the Lumi Accessories game, designed by Laura Lehtinen.

Work in progress.

Lumi creature inside the Lumi Accessories game.

The Lumi critter as seen in developer mode.

The Lumi Accessories game as viewed on mobile.

The magnificent beast called Kaapelitehdas

We worked on the Lumi Accessories project for a good while. As the prototype was looking ready to go into the polish stage, another project fell into our laps. The Cable Factory wanted to use VR to show what was, what is, and what will be: a VR prototype showcasing the history (and future) of this magnificent beast of a building (while also advertising their merchandise). This prototype is currently being developed, and will be tested later in the summer.

In this project my role has been somewhat similar to the previous one – I did my lists, I drew my graphs and dove into my research. After that I’ve been working closely with one of our 3D artists to create a dynamic scene that changes depending on the user interactions. We are currently presenting our ideas for our contacts at the Cable Factory and steering the design towards what they wish to see in the prototype.

Different views from the Kaapelitehdas scene.

My goals at HXRC

One of my personal goals for this internship was to have a good overall learning experience. This spring was definitely that! I’ve learned to use new tools, improved my existing skills, and also learned about myself as an XR designer. Turns out my role is exactly what I make it: if a developer is needed I turn into a developer, if an artist is needed I grab a (digital) brush. With these prototypes I have been leaning more into the developer side of things by creating level design plans and game engine work.

A highlight for me has been the incredible teamwork skills we collectively summoned. It’s so great to work with such talented individuals, and feeling like everything just falls into place! We have had an amazing team spirit, and managed to keep it up even when working remotely. Nothing like starting your day with a couple of post-ironic memes on Discord before moving onto more serious matters… and then back to memesAnyone who needs help or just wants to vent after a long day only needs to type out a message – and almost instantly there is someone to answer. People on the project management side have been very supportive, and quick to join in on the memes and fun – while also keeping the team on track regarding tasks and schedules.

As a working environment, HXRC has been a very quiet one: the pandemic had most of the people working from home, though they’re slowly returning back to the office. I personally enjoy this calm, serene energy of the office, and I’m happy to spend my days here. I have everything I need (and more) at my disposal, and everyone has been very welcoming.

Overall this spring has been busy, fun, and a great learning experience. I had to do three courses for my degree this year, and passed them by simply working on the traineeship – so everything worked out perfectly. I’m actually continuing my internship, so I’m looking forward to an exciting summer with more prototypes to come! You’ll hear from me again in autumn!

To see previous news about our trainees’ projects, head over to the Trainee news section.

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