Ama's Momento

Ama's Momento

Project Lead / Narrative Designer / Prototyper

Project Goals

Capture the story, memories, and dreams of a grandmother through a mix of VR, AR, and installations.


Ama’s Momento is a mixed reality installation dedicated to capturing the story of a grandmother who dreams of building an art museum to preserve Taiwanese culture; the experience transforms Ama's dream into a virtual museum and sparks a movement that makes her dream a reality.

research & concept dev prototyping ama's painted corner ama's momento

Research & Concept Development

Ama means "grandmother" in Taiwanese. Ama's full name is Yoko Kung. She was both our audience and the story's main character. To better understandstand her story and her home, we, as a mix of 11 designers, engineers, and producers traveled to Taiwan to meet her.

Taiwan Research Trip

Our goal in Taiwan was to gather footage of Yoko's home and learn more about her as a person. She hosted all of us in her apartment. There, we learned of Yoko's passion and respect for art; her modesty and hospitality made her everyone's Ama. We wanted to capture her in building the experience.

research trip; documentation from Taiwan

Trip Highlights :

Much of trip we spent attending different activities with Ama. We documented every location, which created key locations for the project.

• Old Home

• Artist Lou's Home

• Morning dance in the park

• Tennis Courts

• Golf Course

• Ama's highschool

Experience goals :

Using our experience from Taiwan, we created 3 experience goals.

1. Depict Ama's life in a relatable and authentic way

2. Capture Ama's dream of building a museum

3. Motivate users with a call to action

Where did we exist in this story?


After returning from Taiwan, we reflected back on a hundred hours of footage we took. We had the experience goals, but where did our team exist in this story? Much of the footage also included us. To explore this topic and use this as an opportunity to experiment with interaction, we built multiple rapid prototypes to show what this journey meant for us.

Folding Dumplings with 姥姥

A big story challenge is designing a relatable narrative around Ama for an audience who had never met her. My first exploration was using webVR and simple interactions to capture the feeling of folding dumplings at home with my Grandmother (姥姥) and share it with an audience. In this experience, the user selects dumpling skins to fold them into dumplings, while listening to 姥姥 explain the steps for creating authentic dumplings.

webVR prototype: tying together cultures

Key Learnings:

1. Simple interactions allow space to digest more complex audio

2. Unexpected, fun results (bouncing dumplings) create endless joy

3. Signifiers from the web do not translate into VR space

Golf with Friends

After creating personal prototypes, we united our learnings into group prototypes. Golf with Friends referred to our time playing golf with Ama in Taiwan. We combined the action of VR golfing with 360 footage of our golfing journey.

Key Learnings :

1. Affecting virtual objects through familiar actions is satisfying

2. Intersecting 360 footage with 3D objects can make a space feel small

3. Giving users "checkpoint" feedback gives better sense of goals

Interaction Goals:

Creating these experiences helped us realize importance of relatability. To encourage a 'call to action' from the user, we must make the experience relatable to their own relationships.

1. Build empathy through skeuomorphic interaction

2. Create joy by defying expectations

3. Highlight intergenerational change

Ama's Painted Corner

Our goal was to create an experience that showcased Ama's life and dream of creating a museum, while preserving the relatability of Ama being 'an ordinary grandma'. The Painted Corner was our first attempt to combine all of these elements into one interactive installation.

Ama's Painted Corner consists of 6 sections

A. Photo Timeline

B. Ama's Dream

C. Virtual Preservation

D. Ama's Struggle

E. Next Generation

F. Dialogue

Narrative Flow

I created the narrative flow for the project. Each section contained one team member introduced the goals for the room.

Ama's Painted Corner experience layout

A — Photo Timeline

Introductary video describing the goals for this project, followed by a short timeline of Ama's life made of physical photos. Each photo has a date and small description in the back.

Guests learn briefly about Ama's background.

B — Ama's Dream

Consists of 3 physical elements from Ama's life — tennis racket, painting, photo. Guests can read about each object on description cards.

Builds more context around Ama's character around relatable hobbies and interests.

C — Virtual Preservation

AR painted portrait of Ama paired with her motivational quote. Introduces her hope of preservating Taiwanese culture through her painting collection.

Guests learn how Ama is highly ambitious and has a dream to build an art museum.

D — Challenges

Short film introducing Ama's childhood and challenges she faced while trying to build her museum.

Guests have a chance to empathize with Ama's struggles.

E — Photo Carousel & Next Generation

Interactive VR carousel projector featuring timline of photos of Ama, leading up to the team's trip. Continues with the team's journey and influence.

Guests reconnect with Ama's past and discover the thread of influence from our role in this story.

F — Dialogue

Open-dialogue with the team about the experience and the importance of close relationships.

Guests learn more about our journey and how the experience impacted them.


We ran playtests for 2 weeks and gathered a total of 30 unique feedbacks from all the guests. Through the feedback, we determined the most successful and lacking sections of the experience.

The Painted Corner

Pros :

1. Guests connected emotionally with overall narrative

2. Pairing familiar interactions with digital objects inside the novelty of VR brought joy

3. Guest clearly understood Ama's dream and motive

Cons :

1. Physical objects felt disconnected from rest of experience

2. Overall not enough context during experience introduction

3. Not enough emphasize on Ama's painting collection

Since the photo timeline was not a linearly-driven experience, guests often glanced quickly or skipped through descriptions, resulting in a lack of context around Ama's life.

Ama's Painted Corner

Team Lead

Awu Chen


Anahita Dalmia

Kevin Ke

Nicholas Pudjarminta

Narrative Designer

Maryyann Crichton

Keshav Prasad

Experience Designer

Gabriela Purri

Sagar Ramesh

Yimin Zhang

2D / 360 Editor

Kevin Ke

Nicholas Pudjarminta


Aakash Shanbhag

Chinmay Chinara

Kevin Wu


Gabriela Purri

Maryyann Crichton

Sagar Ramesh

Yimin Zhang

Awu Chen

Keshav Prasad

Kevin Ke

Nicholas Pudjarminta

Ama's Momento

After almost two years of traveling, prototyping, and collecting feedback from Ama's Painted Corner, we created the final version of Ama's Momento that fully showed Ama's story and her dreams of creating an art museum. As a project lead, I used my experience from creating Ama's Painted Corner and meeting Ama, to guide new designers and engineers in better understanding Ama's story and personality.

Ama's Momento Exhibit consists of 6 sections

1. Memory Gallery

2. Ama's Journey

3. AR-t Gallery

4. Project Boundaries

5. Community Dialogue

6. Virtual Museum

Experience & Story Flow

We used feedback from Ama's Painted Corner to update this installation.

We added more interactivity with sticky notes to the photo gallery and an AR timeline that contextualized the photo events in Ama's life. Additionally, we included an engaging mobile AR animation component to a larger collection of paintings. Lastly we switched the order of rooms and inserted the community dialogue before the final VR section, giving guests a chance to reflect and clear up any uncertainties with Awu, Ama's grandson.

Ama's Painted Corner experience layout

Ama's Momento final layout

Story Flow

LOBBY — Memory Gallery

Light table consisting of photos from Ama's life. Guests can write their thoughts on sticky notes around the table.

Acts as both opening and closing experience. Gives a chance to personalize the project and welcomes participation from the community.

ROOM A — Ama's Journey

Light table with map of Ama's journey across Taiwan and America. Guests can explore a directed AR experience and listen to Ama talk about her life from an IPAD.

Sequences Ama's memories and gives clear story on her background.

ROOM B — AR-t Gallery

Gallery of several physical painting duplicates from Ama's personal collection. Guests can scan paintings with their phones to watch AR animations and learn more about the painting's importance.

Introduces the importance of Ama's personal collection. Helps guests empathize with the preciousness of these paintings through Ama's voiceover.

ROOM C — Projected Boundaries

Projection mapping introducing Ama's upbringing, her dream of sharing her painting collection, and the challenges that kept her dream from becoming reality.

Builds up empathy for Ama's difficult journey and motivation.

ROOM D — Communal Room

A moment of reflection and dialogue with Awu, Ama's grandson.

Guests reflect and discuss with Awu about the experience so far after learning about Ama's journey. Guests also learn about our role in creating this experience for Ama.

ROOM E — Virtual Musuem

A VR museum showcasing Ama's entire painting collection and several VR pieces the team created together. This is our gift to Ama.

Guests get a postive payoff following Ama's hindered attempt to create an art museum. They leave with a feeling of renewed hope.

" Heart-achingly thoughtful " - LA Times

Final Results

The final result was a 20 minute mixed reality installation, which we showed at various different musuems and conferences, including Indiecade, VR for change, LA Asia Pacific Film Festival, Japanese American National Museum,Tainan Art Museum and Infinity Festival. We were met with overwhelming support and positive response from the community, with many asking how they could accoomplish a similar experience for their loved ones.

After displaying the experience at the Tainan Art Musuem, local culture officials reconnected with Ama and approved her proposal to create an art museum, signed off by the Taiwanese Government.

Ama's Momento


Awu Chen

Project Leads

Kevin Ke

Kevin Wu

Maryyann Crichton

Nicholas Pudjarminta

Visual Design Team

Alexandra thomopoulos
Cameron kostopoulos
David guevara
Georgina chiou
Shaoyu su
Sharleen chen
Shine chang

Engineering Team

Hanzo huang
John marshall
Mingxuan li
Ralston louie
Steph ng

Physical Production

Brenda garcia
Janelle reyes
Sabrina stamnes

Aakash shanbhag
Anahita dahlmia
Chinmay chinara
Gabriela purri
Keshav prasad
Max good
Sagar ramesh
Yimin zhang


Marientina gotsis
Candace reckinger
Michael patterson


USC Immersive Media Lab
USC Creative Media &
Behavioral Health Center