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Born To Roam

Born To Roam

An Immersive VR project that takes you on a bucket list experience via hot air balloon travel. Come and see the beauty of the world with your voice-over tour guide, Henry the British macaw! Our goal is to promote mindfulness and a renewed perspective for those who are in hospice and palliative care.

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Welcome To The Born To Roam Experience! An Immersive Project that brings hot air balloon travel to patients of hospice and palliative care in a bucket-list style adventure! Voice-guided by a British parrot named Henry Scarlet Rouge, the user is taken to five different destination spots across the world! Our aim is to bring the joy and the hope of fantastical adventure back into the hands of those who are bed-ridden or who are too ill to leave their home. We see this need for an escape now more than ever with COVID restrictions.

The question that we asked ourselves throughout this project was this: if I was sick at home, and couldn't leave my room, or possibly even my bed, what would I want to do?

Our answer?


The Born To Roam experience allows the patients at Hospice Savannah (our recipients of this project) this opportunity, to explore again, to have curiosity again, and to find the beauty in the world around them.

Beginning in Savannah, Georgia, the location of our patients in Hospice Savannah, a balloon flies down to the user, encircling them, before lifting off to the clouds where one user exclaimed she felt "weightless". After viewing the map below, the user is taken to the Amazon Rain Forest, to listen to the ambient sounds of nature. From there, the Great Wall of China, where lanterns welcome you. In Venice, Italy, ambient accordions can be heard, and in Petra, Jordan, a tour guide leads you through the ancient history of the desert. The final stop is the Northern Lights, where the user is encouraged to reflect, to find hope, and to practice mindfulness for a renewed perspective.

All throughout the journey, while the parrot tour guide cannot be seen, he encourages the user to see the beauty that surrounds them!

Early Concept Sketches, in which we found the stylized art direction of our project, and the whimsical feeling we wanted to capture! Our experience is a combination of rendered 3D assets made in Maya and in Tilt Brush along with 2D assets overlayed onto live-action footage.

Early renders of what the user would see, we wanted to ensure that they would actually feel as though they were in the balloon!

Our process was unique in that we decided to use 3D assets for our hot air balloon model, with the ultimate goal of rendering a finalized mp4 in Adobe After Effects. As there is not a standardized way in which textured assets from Maya are brought into After Effects, we had to get creative!

Texturing in Substance Painter, and then using Maya's Arnold renderer with a 360 VR camera, we were able to bring in our 3D assets as flattened images. From there, we removed the backgrounds of our renders and then overlayed them onto our final footage. Check out the stages of our process below!

As a Virtual Reality project, we looked to push the boundaries of the traditional 3D pipeline by using Tilt Brush for icon assets and even for a transition scene in which the user leaves the Earth and moves into the clouds! The 'rising into the clouds' footage, as we like to call it, was needed as we could not find live-action footage to license that fit our idea.

Watch the video below to see the reaction of a caregiver in our experience. A Stanford Medical study reported that 40% of caregivers of patients with Alzheimer's died before their sick loved one due to a stress-related illness. By helping those in hospice, we are also looking to take care of their family members as well.

Without further ado, here is the Born to Roam Experience! Broken up into two parts, the project was worked on over a 10 week period, and its total run time is over 17 minutes!

Overall, we faced many challenges in our unconventional workflow. As our final VR render was Monoscopic, a lot of footage had to be converted, and purchasing footage in the first place once our grant was lost was difficult as well. I think the success and beauty of this finalized project speaks to the adaptability of the talented students in our group, and our desire to help those who are immunocompromised in the time of a global pandemic.

If we were to do this project again, I believe we would not change our workflow, as Maya is a very powerful program and the VR 360 camera is an excellent tool. If anything, our group learned that success comes through hard work, collaboration, and passion. We love what we do, and that shows.

Thank you.

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