Experiments in Immersion

Also Known As

The Distance Between Us

ALSO KNOWN AS is a company set up by two journalists, Kate Parkinson and Aela Callen. They have been taking risks to uncover stories for a long time. They decided to start a business together in order to explore how immersive technologies can be used to better inform and tell stories. Having received funding from both Google and Innovate UK to research and develop their ideas further they set out to find a development partner. When they first approached us, they explained that they are trained to listen to all sides of a story but that they’re really driven by how they can help people to listen to each other. The core focus for this research was to create a safe virtual space for participants to have, hopefully, constructive discussions about divisive issues.

Kate and Aela work with user centred design principles and the work we supported them with formed part of the experiments that will ultimately inform a larger project.

Testing theories around what VR can do to improve communication and empathy. We developed two different virtual spaces based on information gathered from the previous experiments. These spaces were networked so participants in different locations could meet and interact.

Kate and Aela want to experiment and explore the impact of body language on communication. In order to give a good sense of immersion and also to convey their body language in real time we gave the participants a full body avatar using a combination of Vive trackers, Valve Knuckles and the animation support of our development tool Ikabod.

For each experiment the team worked over the course of a week with Kate and Aela to repeat the tests with a number of participants, supporting the technical set up and in order to record user reactions and behaviour. After the first set of experiments they took away all the data from the experiments to analysis and help inform the experiment design for the second set of experiments.

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