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.