What is Immersive Design?

For my immersive design assignment, I am to design an immersive experience prototype surrounding the story of Alice In Wonderland. As I am new to the world of immersive design, I decided to do some research before I began designing anything to help me gain a better understanding of it. 

What is Immersive Design?

Immersive design basically enables the user to feel as if they are physically interacting with things within another world, it ‘pulls a person into a new or augmented reality, enhancing everyday life (by making it more engaging or satisfying) via technology’ (Karnes, n.d.). Immersive design is also known by the umbrella term of extended reality or ‘XR’ which can then be narrowed down further into the three segments of augmented reality ‘AR’, virtual reality ‘VR’ and mixed reality ‘MR’.

My graph showing the types of extended reality

Augmented Reality 

‘AR adds digital elements to the real world and projects them onto your line of sight’ (Autodesk, n.d.). An example of this could be the mobile game, Pokemon Go in which the user virtually captures Pokemon on their phone screen which via the phone camera, look as if they are appearing in whatever environment the user is in. 

Augmented reality can also be used this way for companies trying to sell things such as the furniture company, IKEA who have an app in which you are able to ‘virtually place true-to-scale 3D models [of IKEA furniture] in your very own space’ (Apple 2021). This is really interesting to see how through the use of AR it can not only help a company to sell their items but also helps the consumer to make sure they are making the right decision with their purchases. 

A GIF showing an example of augmented reality game Pokemon Go

Virtual Reality

‘VR replaces the real world with a simulated one in 3d’ (Autodesk, n.d.). The games industry is probably what initially will spring to mind for most people when they think of the term VR, from the rise in popularity of Virtual Reality headsets such as the Oculus Quest, HTC Vive, Playstation VR and Google Cardboard in recent years. The user will wear a headset which covers their eyes completely (blocking out the physical world) and secures at the back of their head, and hold controls in their hand. Through the use of screens inside the headset, the user will be able to see their new virtual world, which generally will surround them to a 360 degree angle. When the user moves, they will also move in the virtual world and through the use of hand controls, they will be able to interact with things. There are many games that have been made solely for VR, such as Half-Life Alyx. There are also many games which were already popular on other consoles that have been transformed onto VR platforms such as Minecraft, Resident Evil 7: Biohazard and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. 

The games industry certainly isn’t the only industry that uses Virtual Reality, according to ‘Virtual Speech’ there are now 21 other industries that utilise this technology. One of these is the healthcare industry, where VR can have a very positive impact: ‘healthcare professionals now use virtual models to prepare themselves for working on real bodies and VR has even been used as pain relief for burn injuries’ (Thompson, 2020). This shows that VR isn’t just used for leisure, but also can change people’s lives for the better. 

Similar to the augmented reality IKEA app mentioned earlier, VR can also be used to help sell products to consumers. This is seen in the architecture and real estate industry who both use 3D models to show customers how their building work may look once complete or in the case of the real estate industry, prospective buyers of houses can virtually take part in house viewings. 

VR is also used in the motor industry to help create prototypes of cars, this ‘is saving the automotive industry millions by reducing the number of prototypes built per vehicle line’ (Thompson, 2020). This is also an example of how VR can actually help the environment too.

Finalising the list of the 21 main industries that use VR, the rest are retail, tourism, gambling, learning and development, recruitment, entertainment, education, sports, art and design, events and conferences, wellbeing, social, charity, marketing, recreation, law enforcement and finally news and journalism. This extensive list is proof that VR will have an impact in most peoples lives somehow. 

A GIF showing some users experiencing virtual reality games

Mixed Reality

‘MR is a hybrid of virtual reality and augmented reality’ (Autodesk, n.d.), a ‘blend of physical and virtual worlds’ (Microsoft, 2021). This type is quite often seen on mobile devices, for example ‘people may not even realize that the AR filters they use on Instagram are Mixed Reality experiences.’ (Microsoft, 2021). These types of face filters on apps such as Instagram and Snapchat react with the physical world, for example, some of the filters react to changes in facial expressions or movement. 

A GIF showing an example of Snapchat face filters which respond to movement

My Personal Experience 

As I had personally never experienced any type of extended reality before, early on in the module in one of the labs I was given the chance to try out the university’s Oculus headset which is a VR gaming headset. I found that having this first hand experience to be very useful, it certainly helped me understand Immersive Design more and helped me to start gaining ideas for my prototype. 

During this experience, I first tried out some of the introductory orienteering games which are designed to help new users get acquainted with how to use the head set and controls. Initially, I did feel a bit confused by how to use the controllers but by doing small tasks within the new world such as picking up blocks and stacking them, throwing paper planes and inserting game cartridges into a console, I was able to gain much more confidence with how to use the controls. These tasks all sound like very basic things, but in a way when using VR for the first time it is almost like learning how to use your hands again, so I found this part of it crucial and very helpful. 

Overall, I found my experience using the VR headset to be very fun, I was able to see and experience how immersive design is such a sensory experience, and that this important aspect is what ultimately helps to literally immerse the user into the experience. I will be now take what I have learnt from both my experience using VR and my research into it to create an interesting immersive prototype. 

References:

Karnes (n.d.) What is an immersive experience and how do you create one? Available online: https://clevertap.com/blog/immersive-experience/ [Accessed 16/10/21].

Autodesk (n.d.) Introducing immersive design. Available online: https://www.autodesk.co.uk/solutions/virtual-reality [Accessed 16/10/21].

Apple (2021) App store preview: IKEA place. Available online: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/ikea-place/id1279244498 [Accessed 16/10/21].

Thompson, S (2020) VR applications: 21 industries already using virtual reality. Available online: https://virtualspeech.com/blog/vr-applications [Accessed 16/10/21].

Microsoft (2021) What is mixed reality? Available online: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/mixed-reality/discover/mixed-reality [Accessed 16/10/21].

GIFS:

Pretty Little Bakers (2016) Pokemon-go-gif. Available online: https://prettylittlebakers.com/poke-ball-cookies/pokemon-go-gif/ [Accessed 10/01/22].

Product Hunt (n.d.) Virtual reality gif. Available online: https://giphy.com/gifs/producthunt-virtual-reality-mixed-xTiN0AVV7Ebad21L7q [Accessed 10/01/22].

Primogif (n.d.) Filter gif. Available online: https://www.primogif.com/p/11lBqvULyT9C36 [Accessed 10/01/22].

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