This paper introduces the Immersive Audience Experience Evaluation Toolkit, an online questionnaire designed to measure audience perceptions of impact and value of different immersive experiences. Initially created and developed in 2017, the Toolkit has been applied to various immersive media formats and contents such as virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), mixed reality (MR), games and screen-based media. With examples of insights generated for creators and funders of immersive experiences, this paper summarises the need for, development and refinement of the Toolkit. Drawing from audience evaluations with 460 people using 10 different immersive contents, the added value of the Toolkit to the creative industry of further exploring aggregated and comparative ratings is also discussed.
Access to immersive experiences
The past five years has seen a surge in immersive technology developments around the world. Consumers can now more easily access virtual and augmented reality hardware at home; from high-end headsets requiring high spec PCs to run content (such as the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, PlayStation VR, and Microsoft Hololens) to smartphone-based apps and viewers. Location-based immersive experiences (e.g., exhibitions and galleries) are also gaining popularity in the arts and culture sector. Within this rapidly evolving industry which fuses arts and technologies, a range of genres and applications are available that challenge audience expectations and push traditional boundaries of curated and mediated audience experiences.
Impact of immersive experiences
The psychological impact on audiences of mediated experiences across a range of genres including film and games has been widely explored. Their results have implications for the types of self-report audience evaluations considered relevant to immersive content and give a sense of the range of qualities which may be relevant to impact judgements such as emotional intensity, strangeness, vividness, a sense of presence, and ease of use (of experience, interactions and tasks).
In collaborative qualitative research with Nesta for Digital Catapult we explored what makes a curated piece of content “impactful” and “valuable” from the perspective of content funders and content creators of immersive productions, as well as potential end-user audiences. The findings, summarised below, revealed insights about the differences and similarities in how impact is judged; key words used to describe impactful experiences; important audience characteristic that might influence impact ratings; and considerations for the interaction design (real world and augmented virtual).
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