INSIGHTS: WHAT IS AN IMMERSIVE EXPERIENCE?
A nominee for the 2018 Digital Impact Awards, Vismedia works across immersive experiences, including AR and VR. Scott Shillum discusses the value of video in this context
There are two types of immersive experiences, one when you are actually in a physical environment and the other where you are shown around a real or imagined environment via desktop, tablet, mobile or via VR headset. At Vismedia we specialise in the latter. Our immersive experiences enable the viewer to explore spaces through a series of interconnected 360 degree environments into which you can place traditional 2D video and animation content alongside interactive hotspots and overlays, links to internal and external websites and downloadable documentation.
The Terminology With immersion come several other terms that merit explanation. The media likes to talk about (and use – often incompetently) virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality (MR), among other terms.
Though they sometimes use these interchangeably, there are differences between all of these terms. When we talk about virtual reality, we are describing a fully constructed CGI digital world into which you place the user and which they can interact with. All of the contents of the world are man-made and rendered as needed.
360 degree video or 360 degree photography create environments that have been digitally captured from the real world., allowing the user to be placed inside and to feel a part of the captured moment from a more passive perspective.
An immersive experience can be delivered via desktop, tablet and mobile and because it is a 360 degree environment it can easily be transferred into a VR headset environment. Although not by definition virtual reality, it is enabled via a VR headset.
Augmented reality, on the other hand, is a combination of the real world and certain digital elements. The most well-known example of AR is certainly the mobile game Pokemon Go. This is where objects are placed according to GPS or geolocated co-ordinates. However increasingly we are seeing AR been used to overlay additional moving content to static flat content. For example we recently worked with Unilever to bring an internal poster campaign to life by having animations that sat behind the posters and which were activated by holding the phone over the images. The AR overlay also enabled to viewer to visit specific internal websites which were accessible by an AR clickthrough button. Simple but effective and also very measurable via backend analytics.
Finally, mixed reality is perhaps the most exciting of the three. It’s basically a mix of holographic and virtual images, and the user wears special glasses to see it. Many consider this to be the future of gaming (and a whole plethora of additional use cases).
What does it mean?
Immersion means nothing without a purpose – the story you want to tell. If there is no story, there is nothing to be immersed in, and all the technology you use is nothing more than a gimmick.
It’s not enough to just tell a story, however. Great immersive experiences make the user discover the story themselves.That’s really the key to creating a compelling immersive experience. A designer needs to challenge their audience in order to draw them in.
The field of immersion, whether through VR, AR or MR, is new and constantly developing. However, these key principles are not features of the technology that makes immersion possible. They are psychological insights into the way we think and experience things. That means that, no matter how technology changes and develops, designers will keep coming back to the basic principles of narrative and storytelling and using the technology to enhance the experience.
Scott Shillum is the managing director of Vismedia