An immersive experience pulls a viewer into another real or imagined world, enabling them to manipulate and interact with their environment. Immersive experiences use a blend of visuals, sound and technology to deliver unforgettable and engaging worlds. In this post, we’ll explore what immersive experiences are, how they’re created, and how businesses have been using them to their advantage.
There are two types of immersive experiences: one being when you are actually in a physical environment. The other type of experience is where you are shown around a real or imagined environment via desktop, tablet, mobile or via VR (Virtual Reality) headset.
What are interactive and immersive experiences?
At Vismedia, we specialise in interactive and immersive experiences – sometimes called ‘interactive web experiences‘. These interactive and immersive experiences enable the viewer to explore spaces through a series of interconnected 360° 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.
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With immersion come several other terms that merit explanation. The media likes to talk about (and use – often incompetently) Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) and Mixed Reality (MR), among other terms.
Though they sometimes use these interchangeably, there are differences between all of these terms.
Virtual Reality (VR)
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° Video or 360° 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° environment it can easily be transferred into a VR headset environment. So although not by definition Virtual Reality it is enabled via a VR headset.
Augmented Reality (AR)
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 click through button. Simple but effective and also very measurable via back end analytics.
Mixed Reality (MR)
Finally, Mixed Reality is perhaps the most exciting of the three. It’s 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 can immersive experiences unlock for businesses?
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.
Fidelity’s Virtual Pension Centre is a 360° browser-based digital destination designed to engage, excite and empower Fidelity members. Within the virtual world, users can access on-demand webinars and Zoom links from any desktop web browser. Users click and drag to discover information, watch videos, use tools and access guidance inside a photorealistic CGI environment.
Cory Riverside Energy
Energy-from-waste company Cory used an immersive VR experience to take potential investors for a complete site tour – all from the comfort of home.
Engaging employees can be a difficult challenge. Unilever’s team placed augmented reality posters around the workplace on the topic of mental health and wellbeing. Staff could hover their phones over the posters and unlock a world of animated videos and resources that were available to them.
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.
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