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A Metaverse-based workshop for intersectional innovation

Advised by Dr. Ahmed Ansari

In collaboration with Parallux

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M.S. Thesis 
NYU Tandon


Design Challenge

How might we help dispersed teams bring together seemingly unrelated ideas to achieve intersectional and innovative solutions?

Proposed Solution

A Metaverse-based workshop that helps dispersed teams find innovative solutions to complicated problems. The immersive space and detailed exercises help users understand their particular challenge and applicable techniques, solutions, or strategies from unrelated industries. 

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In order for innovation to be groundbreaking it must combine ideas in new and unpredictable ways. This unpredictable nature makes inspiration difficult to systemize.

The Workshop

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In first room of the Metaverse space, the workshop facilitator introduces the user to Intersectional innovation, which is the combination of seemingly unrelated ideas at the intersection of different industries or fields for unexpected outcomes.

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Phase 1:

Understand the Problem

  •  Define the challenge

  •  Understand the stakeholders

  • Explore the root of the problem

  • Find the themes present in the challenge

Phase 2:

Lower Associative Barriers

  • Learn about associated barriers

  • Challenge assumptions

  • Random Association (break)

  • What if? (Constraint based divergent thinking

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Phase 3:


(Using the intersectional database)

  • Using identified themes, find other industries with similar problems

  • Consider techniques, strategies and solutions from these industries 

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Phase 4:


  • Solo brainstorming

  • Brainstorm in pairs

  • Groups of four

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Convergence/Next Steps

The facilitator guides users through a process of deciding which ideas to move forward and plan the next steps to realizing them.


Double Diamond Design Methodology

The Double Diamond methodology outlines four distinct phases of the design process: Discover, Define, Develop, and Deliver. This approach allowed me to explore and validate ideas through a process of divergence (expanding possibilities) and convergence (refining and selecting the most promising options).





  • Expert Interviews

  • User Surveys

  • Literature Review

  • Competitive Analysis

  • Synthesize Key Insights

  • Sense-making

  • Affinity Mapping

  • Persona Creation

  • LoFi Prototypes

  • Blueprinting

Test and Refine:

  • Workshop Method

  • Innovation Database

  • Immersive Space


Primary Research

  • 6 expert interviews​

  • 19 survey responses

Secondary Research

  • Literature review

  • Competitive Analysis

to explore the Discover phase in greater detail


Affinity Mapping

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Diversify collaboration

To bring together a broader range of ideas


Lower associative barriers 

To encourage divergent and abstract thinking



To find parallels in other contexts


Filter Solutions

To easily find applicable fit


Natural Interactions 

Encourage free flowing ideas

This allowed me to define the overall design challenge:

How might we facilitate teams of diverse collaborators to achieve intersectional innovation?


Ideation &
Early Prototypes

Idea 1:

Structuring Inclusion for Innovation

A system that creates the most diverse teams possible in order to gather their unique perspectives.

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 Diversity metric scorecard + match-making software to formulate a team

  • Match participants for most diversity

  • Provide team with a challenge 

  • Measure innovation output​
  • Just diversity combinations

    • Diverse locations v  diversity in education result in best ideas

    • ML to predict best aspects to emphasize for innovation.


  • Difficult market fit​

  • Potential for negative impact on diversity initiatives

Idea 2:

Biomimicry for Humanity

A card game in which users solve problems using biological techniques, strategies, and solutions

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  • The players are presented with a problem and select solution from a set of biological strategies they had been dealt. 

  • The dealer decides the best solution of the biological strategies submitted

  • The player who accumulates the most “best solutions” wins the game.


  • The game is an exercise for abstract thinking rather than a solution that inspired true innovation

  • Providing the problem makes the solutions less useful

Idea 3:

Biomimicry Metaverse
prototype of process for understanding/decontexualizing a problem
  • Decontextualize problem & identify theme/function

  • Explore function-themed gallery of biological strategies 

  • Spontaneous conversations with other users, likely from different backgrounds and industries, can incorporate diverse perspectives


  • Biological strategies too limiting

  • Potential spontaneous interactions are unreliable

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Decontextualize the problem from it's industry, find themes, and explore potentially applicable biological solutions

Idea 4:

Metaverse workshop for Intersectional Innovation



I broke this down into 3 tasks:

  • Develop the Workshop

  • Create the Metaverse Space

  • Design the Database

Developing the Workshop

Prototype 1:

Bubble Map of Exercises

1. Understand the Problem



3 Rounds on Zoom with verbal prompts

User debrief and observational metrics

2. Lower Associative Barriers

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3. Inspiration and Ideation


  • Rounds lasted 1-2.5 hours

  • No group got through all phases

  • Problems around regulation are unsuitable

  • process was long and exhausting

  • Participants may go down unhelpful trains of thought

Prototype 2:

Infographic Exercises


2 Rounds on Zoom 

Interactive in FigJam

User debrief and observational metrics


  • Participants were least engaged when exploring stakeholders and problem roots

  • Most insightful exercises: abstract thinking "what if?" 

  • Users need rapid pacing encouragement during the Understand phase 

  • Users need a better overview of intersectional innovation

Prototype 3:

Metaverse Workshop 1.0


2 Rounds on Zoom with verbal prompts

User debrief and observational metrics


  • Immersive vs Zoom: 

    • Engagement= "Night and Day"​

  • Process lags in understand phase

  • Insights into infographic reorganization

  • Identified distracting elements of the space

Prototype 4:

Metaverse Workshop 2.0


2 Rounds of testing, 10 participants each

User debrief and observational metrics


  • Facilitator keeps desired rapid  pacing of the workshop

  • Added intro video helps participants understand intersectional innovation and the workshop process 

  • Arrows guiding around the space help participants know where to go

  • Sticky notes UI is cumbersome

Workshop Introductory Video

Creating the 3D Space

1. Journey Mapping In Figma
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Prototyped process of the workshop and placement of various exercises

2. Blueprint designs
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Created a floor map based on the different phases and exercises of the workshop

3. 3D Modelling in SketchUp
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  •  This process was the most time consuming, as it was a learning process.

  • Imported the PNGs of the infographics and places on the walls

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4. SketchUp to Unity
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Collaborated with Parallux engineers Keanan and Connor to transition model into Unity


  • Colors translate much lighter​

  • "Z-Fighting"​

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4. Unity to Parallux
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Collaborated with Parallux Engineers Keanan and Connor to transition onto Metaverse Platform

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5. Interactive Tools

Collaborated with Parallux Engineers Keanan and Connor to create sticky notes to use in the space


  • Not intuitively located

  • Too many steps to access sticky notes

  • Can only copy text of note, not entire note

Designing the Database

The database of themes associated with different industries enables the users to look to specific industries that deal with problems similar to the one they are addressing. 


This was inspired by Positive deviance: the practice of identifying and learning from individuals or groups who exhibit exceptionally positive behaviors or successful outcomes despite facing similar challenges as others in their community.

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Prototype 1:
Concept of industry problems/solutions

A network map of industries, the themes of problems they dealt with, and the particular solutions, techniques, and strategies they employed to address these problems 

  • Creating one for every field/industry is a massive project and must be scoped down

  • Breadth>Depth to begin

    • It is more important for the database to be comprehensive in the industries for inspiration rather than offering all solutions within each industry

System map created in Kumu

Prototype 2:
Connecting industries to themes

I prototyped this database with analog sticky notes on poster board. I headed the sticky notes with lists of industries and brainstormed what issues they might deal with. 

I added “tags” of other industries they seemed to connect to. 

  • Users will be able to use these connections to themes as a point of ideation for cross industry innovation

  • Current form offers theme from industry but users will need industry from theme

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Sticky notes on poster board for conceptualization

Prototype 3:
Conceptualizing Relationships

I translated this into a google sheet, with columns labeled with the industries and rows labeled with the themes, and x’s in the cells of the industries and themes that corresponded.   

  • Seems like the easiest way to conceptualize the basic connection of themes and industries

  • Accessing the information is not user-friendly

    • Need to find a way to access theme from industry input​

Google sheet database: comprehensive list of themes and the industries that connect them via coordinate rationality

Prototype 4:
Select themes to view industries

The pivot table created in Excel allows users to  select the a theme correlated to the challenge they are addressing, view the industries that deal with other problems of this theme, and thus consider the solutions these industries have found and their applicability.

  • While users may select more than one theme at a time, the table does not make an industry that falls under both more dominant in the industry output list

    • Database would be improved by highlighting these industries to indicate a stronger conncection​

Pivot table created in Excel allowing users to view the industries that deal with problems similar to their challenge.


One major takeaway was that the Discover and Define phases took far longer than anticipated, this “diamond” truly was half the process. Creating and testing real prototypes seemed the best way to move it forward.  An interesting result of this process was the new question “How might we facilitate remote collaboration?” which arose as a result of the primary and secondary research into intersectional innovation.


A goal of mine was to make this project itself an intersectional innovation.  I do think that was successful–it lies at the intersection of remote collaboration and innovation strategy.  It is also a combination of database technology and design methodologies.  I was able to interview someone from another industry (law) that dealt with similar themes (making abstract connections), and incorporated the solution of a database. However, a particular aspect of this was the large number and variety of filters used in legal databases, which I was not able to incorporate into the relatively rudimentary database I created. 


The database is the least finished aspect of the project.  In its current form, it does not provide the users with the specific strategies from other industries, merely leads them to the industry for ideation inspiration. In this way it does not completely address an initial goal of mine. Future iterations will more successfully address this, and incorporate the filters inspired by legal databases. I envision it as a networked bubble map, selectable by theme and automatically reorganizing based on some selection of Theme→Industry→Field→Specific solution/technique/innovations for inspiration. Ideally future iterations would incorporate this into the immersive space, rather than relying on a screen share.  I would also like to explore 3D data visualization–perhaps each node is a sphere in the 3D space rather than a circle on the wall.  Another way to take advantage of the virtual space would be to change the setting and skybox to reflect the industry currently providing inspiration.  


I would also like to push the workshop exercises further.  Stakeholder exploration could be more effective and engaging if users could change their avatars to appear like the stakeholder in question.  This could increase empathy, and facilitates restructuring the exercise to an interview format.  Randomly generating 3D models in the “Abstract” room could provide an opportunity for unexpected associations and divergent ideation. I would like to test other exercises to potentially add to the workshop. Particular exercises mind mapping (brainstorming related concepts around a central idea),  analogy mapping (considering a challenge in a different domain industry and mapping it onto the current problem), and reverse brainstorming (ideate ways to exacerbate the problem, the work backwards to identify root causes).

I would like to increase the accessibility of the workshop.   hope to incorporate real time audio transcription so that individuals who experience blindness or low vision might be able to participate.  I’ve also been exploring the potential for controlling another person’s avatar, so that someone incapable of navigating might stay with the crowd.  


These additions will increase engagement, essential to an exploration of remote collaboration.  They will help participants better understand their challenge and engage in further abstract thinking.  Providing specific techniques to inspire solutions will increase the likelihood of achieving groundbreaking innovation.

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