Turrim: VR for personal finance

VR helps people slow down and embody their choices. We brought this interaction pattern to personal finance.

Turrim helps users create durable mental models of their personal finances, by leveraging embodied cognition.

Hands-on with spatial UI

This winter, I teamed up with fellow spatial enthusiast Brian Nguyen to get our hands dirty in VR.

Under the guidance of Professor Batya Friemdan, we built and tested a working prototype of our design concept for the HTC Vive. Friedman helped us surface the qualities of duration, attention, and time representation in our work.


Brian and I worked together in C# to code our Unity interactions.

I set up a code taxonomy to help us coordinate on different elements.

Hitting a moving target

Personal budgets are hard to track on the go.
Every daily purchase moves the bar on future purchase goals.

We identified a problem with mobile financial apps.
Users in our peer group reported relying on convenient mobile apps to check their finances, rather than seeking ways to understand and remember their financial status.


Virtual Reality is a memorable experience.
Physical environments can be spectacular, while full-bodied interactions engage our natural spatial and procedural memory strengths.

We decided to design a financial app for delight and focused engagement, rather than frictionless convenience.

Rethinking design process for spatial interactions

I did initial concept sketches on paper, but switched over to the painting app TiltBrush to "sketch" and ideate in VR once we'd found our narrative.

There are qualities of 3D space that only come across in . . . 3D space ( ;

Generating models in TiltBrush was an invaluable, fast way to get that context.

Look up

We began to design inspired by traditions of transcendent architecture, and created a “skyspace” environment. Users could look up to enjoy distance, scale, and a glimpse of sky. Over time, this vertical space would fill with the accomplishments of the user; represented as glowing spheres that accumulated on a weekly basis.


“Turrim” is latin for “tower”. We used towers not only for our environment, but also as 3D representations to model the week’s spending and budget categories. Individual budget “Turrims” were human-scale, intuitively adjusted by hand, and had a triangular form factor to improve their readability in 3D space.


We based “turrim” on positive habit reinforcement, rather than the accumulation of money. Each week, users earn glowing spheres based on how well they met their previous goals. Regardless of the amount of money in their budget, the numbers of spheres achieved remains proportional to the difference between goals and spending.


Users remove each sphere individually from the previous week’s budgets. Handling and arranging these glowing objects one by one throughout the space unlocks the next week’s budgets, and provides time to reflect on what was achieved. Unmet goals have no negative consequence - users simply won’t receive as many spheres for that week.


As users adjusted the height of individual budgets, a circular floor visualization showed the relationship between total budgets and available funds. Users only saw this total when they looked down.


Each week, new spheres rise into the skyspace. Over time, the tower holds a more and more intricate constellation of accomplishments, mapping personal patterns of success over time. As users build their financial habits, they build their sky.

Next step

We’re currently expanding Turrim functionality to allow users to visualize and move through their patterns over time, and to customize their budget categories.


HTC Vive


Video keyframe analysis
Think-aloud protocol
Interaction flows



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