The "Maschinenmensch" or machine-human (from Fritz Lang's Metropolis)

To explore the audience’s expe­ri­ence in VR, Karin Soukup and Alexan­dra Gar­cia part­nered with Stanford’s Media Exper­i­ments, the Nation­al Film Board of Cana­da, and inde­pen­dent film­mak­er Pais­ley Smith.

Using low-res­o­lu­tion “expe­ri­ence pro­to­typ­ing” and exten­sive­ly test­ing three basic sce­nar­ios, they attempt to deter­mine the role of agency in VR sto­ry­telling. In doing so, they con­struct what may be VR’s first for­mal dis­ci­pline — “Audi­ence Expe­ri­ence” (AX).

Their top five take­aways:

  1. Real­i­ty is con­struct­ed (once the audi­ence pokes a hole in real­i­ty, they have already fall­en through it)
  2. Hav­ing a body means being some­body (there is no such thing as a neu­tral observ­er)
  3. Look­ing is doing (for bet­ter or worse, the audi­ence directs their own gaze)
  4. 360° is less than 180° (the more there is to see, the less the audi­ence remem­bers)
  5. 360° is more than full cir­cle (the more com­plete the envi­ron­ment, the more it res­onates)

Their con­clu­sion? VR sto­ry­tellers should be “mata­dors”, mov­ing away from direc­tor towards influ­encer – wav­ing the red cape to show users where to look. To do this effec­tive­ly, we need to know their emo­tion­al, cog­ni­tive and phys­i­cal expe­ri­ence: hence the focus on audi­ence expe­ri­ence.