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Design For Virtual Reality

Zen Realm

Project Type



Jun - Aug, 2021


Team of 2

My Role

Storyboarding, Usability Testing, Interaction Design for VR, Prototyping.



The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major effect on our lives. Many of us are facing challenges that can be stressful, overwhelming, and cause strong emotions in adults and children.

For our design idea, we want to create a VR environment to de-stress or just to have fun. We want the user to relax in solitude along with soothing music and internact with various objects.

You can navigate the environment here :

Design Process







User Research



Mood Board


Lo-Fi Prototype

Physical Prototype
Walk Through Study


Mid-Fi Prototype

Digital Prototype

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Hi-Fi Prototype

Digital Prototype




How might we help people de-stress with the help of Virtual Reality?


Creation of a calming environment for users to interact with and engage themselves in various stress relieving activities.


We want the users to have a therapeutic experience engaging his senses of sight and hearing in the VR Realm. Certain existing products like rage rooms help users momentarily decompress but research suggests that they don't help them in the long run.



Japanese zen gardens have proven to be a space for people to focus on meditation and mindfulness. We created a virtual Zen Realm for users to immerse themselves into. Visitors can de-stress with the help of satisfying animations and therapeutic sounds.



Natural, calming, inviting and inquisitive was the environment we want to create. Taking inspiration from Japanese Zen gardens, we selected an assortment of objects for users to interact in our Zen Realm.

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VR Environment Strategy

We strategized our VR experience setup prioritizing scene narration, target user, interaction model to sound cues, elements used and the type of navigation from within the headset.

Interaction Goal

To interact with various objects (pick up objects, stack on one another, throw objects around). The aim is to gauge which objects the participants interact with most to relieve stress.

Who is the user

People who are stressed in their day to day activity and want to take free virtual breaks from their real life

  • Background music ranging from soothing to energizing based on the activity being performed by the user. 

  • Sounds of objects colliding with each other and the environment.

  • Sounds of footsteps while walking.


Environment - Zen Realm

Assets- Pebbles, plants, water, statues, bamboo, sand, cherry blossom tree, bridge, bells and gongs

Interaction Model


Map based


Head movement



Home Base

Our home base will be a serene space having paths to different spaces. The user will have the freedom to navigate to spaces and engage activities according to what he feels like.

VR Concept Design

We began with ideating on how the space should be designed, the journey of the user through the space and interactions he will engage in. Each interaction has been designed to make the user feel certain emotions as he explores the Zen Realm

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Lo-Fi Prototype
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Cherry Blossom tree has wind chimes hanging from the branches producing soft sounds. The movement of windchimes swaying in the wind along with the sound create a mesmerizing experience.

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The Buddha statue and stones floating on the water body along with the singing bowls are envisioned as a meditative space.

Lo-Fi Prototype

Physical Prototype

We conducted an Out in the Wild Walkthough user study with physical objects to replicate each interaction that the user will perform. The aim was to find out how the user interacts with each object and whether the objects invoke the expected feelings within the user

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Key Findings

“I want to lie down and close my eyes and wish to hear the windchimes!”

“I want to sit down, meditate and listen to echoing of the singing bowls and watch the Buddha”

Mid-Fi Prototype

Feels like a bigger gong will have deep sounds and that is preferred rather than shrill small gongs

Felt the brass bowl sound and other environment sound would be in harmony

Mid-Fi Prototype

Digital Prototype

Based on the feedback and insights gathered from the lo-fi prototype usability testing, a digital environment was created using Co-Spaces. The user can navigate the space on a digital screen like laptop and also can be experienced through a VR headset. Oculus Quest 2 VR headset was used for this project and testing. (5).gif
Key Findings

Unexpected Interactions

“Oh I see ducks! ... I want to feed the fish and ducks!” - Want to feed the animals

“I kind of want to look into the bowls to see if there's anything in it”

“How can I pick up the beater? Can I hit the gong?” - Wanted to pick up the beater to hit the gong

Whats Not Working?

Lack of direction to navigate the VR environment. - Included helps and guides for users in the environment.

“Why is the ground pink?” - had to explain the petals part - changed in hi-fi prototype with defined petal assets

Hi-Fi Prototype

VR Environment Experience

“Really meditative and relaxing..” - regarding the background sound

Do you feel more relaxed than before? - “Yeah! Except the headset is really heavy.”

“Makes me want to close my eyes and start to meditate” - Don’t do mediations generally

Overall - nice place to take a nap, listen to the sound of the natural environment

Feels sleepy imagining the blossoms falling down and the environment

“Can I actually sit down here?” - Then sat down under the cherry blossom and windchimes

Hi-Fi Prototype

Digital Prototype

Receiving feedback from the mid-fi prototype testing, we added new interactions and improved the navigation experience in the Co-Spaces environment. ​



Addition of exit signs at each interactions and nodes to facilitate easy exit



Inclusion of user guides for visitors to navigate the VR environment



Visual and usability improvements in assets used in the VR environment



Natural and artificial sounds offer users an immersive experience that invokes all senses

You can navigate the environment here :


Video Walkthrough



Future Scope

  • To make the environment more intuitive by adding other assets of the environment in the equation. 

  • Improving our own technical skills to be able to implement better design solutions using advanced platforms like Unity and Unreal Engine.

  • Research about different interventions that will provide a calming experience for users experiencing stress.


  • Design for Virtual reality needs knowledge about a whole different set of tools and can cause limitations for the execution of prototypes. 

  • I was able to draw from my experience of designing physical spaces from my early career as an Architect while designing Zen Realm. The experience is designed to cater to all the senses of the user and provide a therapeutic experience.

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