Intro

United Universe is a second screen transmedia experience for the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), intended to be used either during or after watching MCU content. As Marvel films continue to expand into more plots and subplots, there is a need to unify all of the fundamental elements that compose this universe. United Universe is a way to bring clarity to the significant people, items, events, and locations that exist across multiple films and television series. Although the prototype was geared towards the MCU, it was designed to be extensible to other cinematic universes and long form narratives.

The Users

United Universe is intended for users with any level of interest in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This design brings clarity for users ranging from casual viewers to avid fans. It's tailored for those who view media from the comfort of their home and want to unobtrusively learn about story elements developing in the Marvel Cinematic Universe on their tablet.

Design Phase 1

The first semester of this project focused on establishing the back-end code, designing the information hierarchy, and designing the overall layout of the interface. There wasn't as much emphasis on the visual design yet, as we wanted to user test the information being displayed, then polish the overall aesthetic of the interface.

Design Phase 2

The second semester of this project focused on providing clearer indicators for potential user interactions. The buckets were designed to appear more like basketball hoops to provide a relatable metaphor. As a blip is tapped by the user, the buckets highlight to indicate that this blip can interact with them to visually display where the interaction can take place.

Contextually Referenced Blip

As relevant story elements are referenced during the show or film the user is watching on their TV, the tablet will contextually populate with relevant information on the tablet screen. Each blip is colored by its category type, and a list of related blips span the bottom of the content panel.

History View

When a blip is dropped into the History view bucket, the user is provided with a chronology of all events throughout the MCU associated with that particular blip. This helps paint a clearer picture of why certain items or characters hold higher significance within the MCU than others.

Connections View

If a blip is dropped into the Connections view bucket, the user is presented with a node-link visualization of other elements that reference it throughout the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Future work would involve providing more context of the relationships between these blips.

Save for Later

A common problem with second screen experiences is that they divide the users attention too much between the content they're concurrently watching with the content presented on their second screen. As such, it was important to allow users to quickly save a blip considered important without interrupting their viewing experience, and provide the ability to easily interact with that content at a later time.

Help Section

In response to user feedback about the drag and drop functionality not being completely clear, a tutorial overlay was added into the interface as a way to help provide a quick intro to the potential interactions within the interface.

Conclusion

With the rise of transmedia storytelling in the entertainment industry, there is an increasing need to curate this content into a contextualized format. The United Universe prototype is a way of exploring the design issues raised by the challenge of maintaining coherence while encouraging exploration of densely interconnected narrative worlds.