It can be difficult to explain what an immersive experience is without also describing the impact. Often, participants sum up their experience with seven little words: “It felt like I was really there.”
Simplicable defines an immersive experience as “an illusory environment that completely surrounds you such that you feel that you are inside it and part of it.” This affect is achieved via technology, storytelling, and physical space. But the best way to explain an immersive experience is not in words or abstract definitions, but in actual descriptions of real-life immersive experiences. To experience real immersion, you don’t always need to hook up to VR goggles. The following five experiences show there’s more than one way to transform reality.
Immersive Experience Example No. 1: Go deep in the belly of a volcano
The Polynesian Cultural Center’s (PCC) 4D digital theater blends in with the natural, tropical surroundings of Laie, Hawaii. The fabricated volcano—complete with volcanic vents that exhale “steam” from deep below the surface—houses the PCC’s digital theater. Once inside, guests walk through dark and glowing “lava tubes” where they see flame-effects lighting and hear the sound of the ocean. In the theater itself visitors learn about Hawaii while black-light illumination and artwork create the illusion of being inside a large volcanic chamber. As a result, visitors don’t just learn about volcanoes, they experience one.
Immersive Experience Example No. 2: Visit Stonehenge throughout time
For most tourists, visiting Stonehenge is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. But thanks to the Stonehenge Visitor Centre located 1.5 miles from (and out of sight of) Stonehenge itself, visitors can experience the stones throughout the seasons and even throughout time. A 360-degree film allows visitors to stand in the center of Stonehenge and gain insight into the stones’ existence. They can see how the stones have stood throughout the ages for a deeper experience that will remain with them for a lifetime.
Immersive Experience Example No. 3: Become a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent
Becoming a hero in the 21st Century requires a high-tech training center. That’s exactly what visitors to “The Marvel Experience” get to experience as they train to become a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. “Training” includes swinging with Spider-Man across a high-rise and interacting with the Incredible Hulk and Iron Man. Those who pass their training get to join their super hero friends in a fight against Red Skull, M.O.D.O.K. and an army of evil Adaptoids.
Immersive Experience Example No. 4: Land a space shuttle
Who hasn’t dreamed of becoming an astronaut and flying a space shuttle? At the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex near Orlando, visitors to Space Shuttle Atlantis can experience a world beyond our own, while keeping their feet firmly planted on earth. They can experience what it was like landing the Atlantis orbiter—complete with a robotic arm and docking station. They can also see images from the Hubble telescope and view astronauts aboard the International Space Station.
Immersive Experience No. 5: Become a paleontologist for a day
Visitors to the 14,000 square-foot Dinosaur Hall in the National History Museum of Los Angeles County don’t just look at and read about dinosaur fossils. They become working paleontologists, using virtual excavation tools and studying individual bones up close. Using touchscreens, visitors can explore the bones of 100 diverse dinosaur specimens. Another multi-touch screen allows visitors to play a game that simulates a dinosaur excavation. As a result, visitors learn about these fabulous creatures in much the same way a paleontologist does in the field.
As these examples show, the subject of an immersive experience can be almost anything. Thanks to today’s technology, and our design and AV experience, the immersive experiences we create are limited only by our imaginations.