Paolo Falco Rüegg

Atrium

Exploring digital ways of collaboration in response to COVID-19

Frontend UX App Dev

COVID-19 has radically impacted the way we exchange knowledge and form social connections. During the first wave of the pandemic, the global community witnessed an unprecedented rise in demand for digital collaboration platforms. While Zoom and co have become ubiquitous, new solutions were also needed for larger-scale events where multiple conversations happen at the same time. In response to the pandemic, we developed a 3D web platform where workshops, exhibitions, conferences and other interactive events could take place.

Our platform, Atrium, successfully hosted events for clients including Google, BMW or Coca Cola. We had high-profile keynote speakers such as the secretary for digital education of the European Union or the CEO of a Fortune 100 company. Furthermore, we have made it possible for a couple of conferences to take place digitally in 2020 and 2021. Our largest event was hosting a part of CES, the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where some of the biggest innovations in technology are shown to the public every year.

I worked on this project as part of my engagement at Accenture Liquid Studio, an innovation lab that works side-by-side with the design agency Fjord. My role was that of a UX engineer and frontend developer. Since I am not allowed to share videos of non-public events, the following videos just show some of the bare functionality of the app.

The 2D part of the application was (re)written in React; in the beginning we (foolishly) used another frontend framework. For the 3D side of things, we used aframe, which is a framework built on top of three.js, the biggest 3D library for Javascript. Some of the technical highlights of this project for me were certainly:

  • Working in a 20+ people team and learning lots from the large degree of complexity this brings
  • Working as a designer and a developer: creating POCs, presenting to stakeholders, and finally implementing the feature
  • First time ever managing other people
  • Creating socket-driven realtime functionalities in order to see other visitors movements and actions
  • Trying to achieve an accessible platform in 3D – it’s hard!

One thing that I learnt out of this project is that we’ll never be able to replace the joy of meeting other people physically. What we can develop instead are new ways of connecting us to people we would not have met otherwise – from far away places and different cultures.