The Technology Explorers: Partnering with Older Adults to Engage with Virtual Reality and Virtual Avatars

  • Steven BakerEmail author
  • Jenny Waycott
  • Frank Vetere
  • Thuong Hoang


Participatory research methods are increasingly being adopted when designing and evaluating emerging technologies for older adults. This chapter details our approach to applying participatory methods to our work with a group of older adults during series of workshops. The workshops involved working with 25 adults from both regional and metropolitan areas, who were over the age of 70. We referred to these participants as the Technology Explorers. The Technology Explorers partnered with us to explore how Virtual Reality (VR) technology could be harnessed to provide older adults with opportunities to participate in meaningful social activities. This chapter focuses on the initial engagement phase of the project that involved introducing the Technology Explorers to a range of VR systems and interaction techniques, co-designing 3D Avatars, and interacting with each other in two social VR technology probes. We describe the participatory methods that helped us to build a strong collaborative partnership with the Technology Explorers, before detailing the techniques used to engage with group members who had vastly different levels on technical knowledge. As none of the Technology Explorers had any experience with VR or virtual avatars, in a final section, we describe three techniques we employed to develop this capacity in the group, with a particular focus on the deployment of two technology probes that marked the end of the workshop series.


Virtual reality Older adults Avatars Action research Technology probes 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Steven Baker
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jenny Waycott
    • 1
  • Frank Vetere
    • 1
  • Thuong Hoang
    • 2
  1. 1.The University of MelbourneParkvilleAustralia
  2. 2.Deakin UniversityBurwoodAustralia

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