First Aid for Aliens in VR

Working together in virtual reality to save aliens




UTS Data Arena


My role

A spaceship has crashed nearby and you are the first responders. Find out what the situation is and try to save any survivors…

This project is a demo application for collaborative actions in a virtual reality space. This work demonstrates how two people can use tangible objects in a virtual reality space to accomplish tasks together. This was done on a small research exhibition grant to better demonstrate multi-user interaction in the UTS Data Arena, a large-scale (10m diameter) 360º display. I took on ideation, user-facing parts of software development and animation of a virtual first aid scenario.

Our scenario is for groups to provide first aid to aliens. We studied real life first aid scenarios but chose to represent a simpler and more forgiving situation in the final version. The aim is to showcase how, in the Data Arena, two people have to combine their tools (doing the same action, be in the same location, or do complementary actions in right spots) to accomplish tasks such as defibrillation of an alien and extinguishing a spaceship on fire.

Still to come: edited video from final demo


The project was funded on a UTS Data Arena Research Exhibition grant (worth $8,500) for the creation and implementation of a tangible user interface in the UTS Data Arena. This grant was awarded to Prof Elise van den Hoven and Dr Roberto Martinez-Maldonado, with Iván and myself as worker bees. Development work was done by Iván Silva Feraud (programming and infrared trackers) and Doménique van Gennip (visuals, animation, game logic and design). During our research on first aid in clinical and surf lifesaving environments, we were assisted and advised by Evelyn Palominos Letelier and Dr Gaby Quintana Vigiola.

Technical setup

The demo runs as a webpage in a modern web browser. In the Data Arena, this webpage is stretched across the width and height of the large 360º screen (roughly 10480px by 1200px). We use a custom web server to feed this webpage information from position trackers attached to the tools used to mend the aliens and spaceship. The IR markers are tracked by a system in the Data Arena to which our server subscribes, processing and sending on this data to the webpage where the main game logic translates it into actions onscreen.

The full code for the game is available online: Code for the position tracking and interfacing with the Data Arena itself has not been published.

More on the process

We started with an ideation session to come up with ways in which we could use objects to manipulate data on-screen. At this stage, we were still looking at developing a multi-use tool for broader use in the Arena.

Once we pivoted to virtual first aid training, I mocked up this concept around helping aliens. Within the limited time we had (2 weeks full-time), we could not model the human body's response to a broad range of first aid interventions that we'd have to cover. Focusing on aliens really simplified our scenario.

Final layout of the four stations around the arena screen. Because our tracker code wasn't very advanced (we only had location data, not angles or pointing directions), we simplified the scenario by dividing the area into four quadrants and two zones within them. As long as we could reliably locate people in any of those eight zones, we could make our game logic work.

Test render of the alien spaceship, which I made in Blender.

Test render of one of the aliens, after a sculpting pass on the model and some attempt at fitting a scarf (probably to hide an even uglier part of the model).

Iván preparing the final demo inside the Data Arena.

The spaceship in its final resting place. The backdrop was also modelled by me, adapting an abstract landscape I had modelled some time earlier. The lowpoly visuals were eyecatching and relatively quick to make.

Final demo of the project with me in the back explaining something, while Iván and Elise watch on. On the floor, our props fitted with position trackers.

Analysis of a video of a hospital emergency situation. Early on, we considered replicating such a scenario, so I made this detailed analysis to understand individual actions of the nurses-in-training and their interactions.