ELLIS - Your VR Robot Friend

VR storytelling has its roots in the same creative process as novels, films, comic books, and video games. Great design for fiction relies heavily on a backstory and justification as to why things are the way they are. As creators, it is critical to understand the universe our designs live in and knowing these specifics helps us make the hundreds of little design decisions required on a project every day. Things like science, culture, religion, and environment are the basis for our “world” and we must understand and respect them to tell a great story. The great film franchises like Mad Max or Harry Potter have well thought-out internal logic and reality that drives the design of everything in that world, making it believable and immersive. Viewers believe in a story no matter how fantastic, because it makes sense and everything from the costumes, environment, props, and characters fit together in a coherent way.

Life Hutch VR takes place in the near future world of the Kyben war as written by Harlan Ellison. Human Technology in the story has improved from the 21st century, but only in small ways. Robots, space flight, beam weapons and intergalactic war are the norm, but man’s day-to-day life is pretty much the same as today. A major character in the story is a robot drone we have named ELLIS and we have given it a lot of thought. Who built ELLIS and what was it designed for? What functions must it perform and what has it been through prior to our story. The answers to these types of questions have informed the size and shape of ELLIS and even the minutia of its color, materials and how weathered the paint is.

Below is a fictitious sales brochure I wrote about the “ELLIS platform”. It is the kind of thing a salesman hands out at a trade show and was written to guide our design team and give them a taste of where ELLIS came from. The brochure is packed with information about the robots’ capabilities that the designers need to know and much more. In the world of Life Hutch VR, ELLIS is an economical multi-purpose robot that has been adopted by the military to keep the life hutches functional. ELLIS vacuums, cares for plants, upgrades systems, repairs the life hutch and then something goes wrong…

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