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.