We are increasingly asked about virtual reality which spurred us to think seriously about how it relates to sensory experience and the potential for this emerging group of technologies. How can sensory design be used to improve the overall VR experience?
Reality itself is essentially virtual: it's what our brain tells us is real from the received sensory inputs. So it follows that true immersive VR needs to pay attention to all of the senses.
VR headsets from the likes of Oculus, Samsung and others have been getting a lot of attention. The technology is progressing at a pace, but, with the exception of a few prototypes, they focus on our ability to SEE and HEAR the world around us. The bulky gear almost entirely covers the face, concentrating on these senses, obscuring and confusing others and even contributing to motion sickness. It’s worth considering whether this is the ‘reality’ you want your customers to associate with your brand.
Smell, taste, touch, temperature, balance, wind, perception of depth and many lesser known senses contribute to an engaging experience. And the technology for these seems a long way off.
At Vetyver, authenticity is important to us and when considering VR for a project, this is at the forefront of our thoughts.
The best examples of VR go beyond the video game extension style headset. They harness the power of technology to tell a story and are not led by it. Good VR draws on the qualities which are important for us in all our work be this storytelling, sound design, scent and the way that all of them combine. To give a couple of examples, this installation from Nick Ryan is truly transportative in two senses of the word. And The Guardian have cleverly used a deceptively simple VR experience of a prison cell to accentuate artful sounds design and storytelling.
Is VR the right choice? You want to create moments of joy for your customers which are authentic, memorable and in tune with your brand values. In any situation, be this shop, exhibition or in bar experience, you want your customers completely emerged in your brand and your values. Is a headset experience doing this? There is a danger of you becoming a shop window for the hardware.