I started actively working on my senior thesis project, Notusia, almost five months ago in September 2018. But it was actually a few months prior when I got my inspiration for the project. I was in the middle of an incredible internship experience at IDEO and was inspired by the unmistakably tangible style of project collaboration that seemed to imbue the office and its people. Tangentially, I had the opportunity to participate in a live demo of a product by an augmented reality startup called Spatial. I was blown away—my childhood sci-fi fantasies were fast becoming reality. For whatever reason, in that moment, the dots started to connect and I came to the realization that I, as a Designer, could actually participate in the process of building the future I'd always dreamed about.
When I think back to these things which initially inspired Notusia, it makes sense what I'm doing now—experimenting with motion data, gesture control, body language, etc. But ironically, that's not where started.
During the first few months of my research and prototyping, I dove head first into the world of information architecture. I've always loved systems and structural organization as a way of sense-making, and combined with the research I had been doing into the psychological theories of embodied and spatial cognition, I thought I had a brilliant idea: 3D Information Architecture.
With the powers of augmented/virtual reality and relational database algorithms, I envisioned a world where we could physically walk through space and interact with any given collection of information. There was only one problem:
As a Designer, I didn't have the hard skills to build out an immersive and interactive augmented reality experience, let alone a backend data structure to support it all.
In order to start experimenting with even just the concept of three-dimensional nested data structures, I built my first prototype for testing using nothing more than standard copy paper, scotch tape, and some string.
You can see more about that prototype here, and ultimately the takeaway I got from it was that people found it pretty difficult to wrap their heads around organizational hierarchies that span all the x, y, and z axises. But I saved myself a lot of time and effort by finding a way to test the core concept just using some paper before getting caught up in all the details of trying to build a 3D interactive environment in Unity and C#.