Immersive Media and Its Immense Power to Create Feeling & Healing

Okay, so today we’re talking about immersive, immersive media.

This is Brianna Amore, (she/her) and this is Kiya Kersh (she/her). We are Amore360. 

So we’re testing this new thing out. We’re making a podcast, a blog post, and a YouTube video — all at the same time.

Today we’re talking about immersive.

So let’s dive into immersive — What is immersive?

You’ve been hearing about it a lot. Yeah, I mean, it’s kind of the buzzword nowadays: immersive.

You hear it in terms of people, describing their events or describing certain things happening in the world. It’s an immersive event, but what exactly does that mean?

We’re going to deep dive into the definition of immersive media and the use of immersive media, why it differs from traditional media and why you should care.

So what is immersive media, basically, and in the most simple way I can probably put it is, immersive media is, a media form that presents a story or a narrative in such a format that it basically envelops you and contains you inside of the story. So, using technologies such as projectors, digital technology, you can use wind, it can use sound.

Basically, it’s trying to recreate an environment that takes you out of your world — or takes you out of the regular world — and transports you into the world that the creators built. 

What are some examples of immersive? 

Well, we have several examples. I mean, the probably the most common thing that people can think of is, virtual reality. So, you know, we’ve had VR headsets now for about ten, ten years, and the technology has gotten good enough now that we can, that we have VR headsets that don’t make people ill. That was a big problem before in the past, but I guess the really the simplest way to explain it is, if you if you recall back to Star Trek Next Generation, they introduced the concept of the holodeck back in the late 80s.

And, you know, basically their vision of the future was that you could walk into a space, a room, and have a computer generate an entire world for you that you could interact with.

And so that idea of the holodeck is something that a lot of creators try to replicate nowadays in creations of immersive experiences, by adding different elements that your senses can interpret.

So you, you know, you have five senses, touch, vision, auditory. So hearing, smell and taste.

How Does Immersive Work? What Are the Pieces? Any Examples?

And so immersive creators are trying to, engage all / as many of those senses as possible to create an experience that essentially helps you forget that, or takes you out of the world and brings you – it transports you – into this new world that they’re creating. 

And now that we have technology that can do this, these types of experiences are getting more and more popular, and the demand for them is actually growing, which is why a lot of people are talking about immersive experiences. So, one of the more successful immersive experiences that just happened, I’d say, within the last few years is, the Van Gogh experience.

That basically, they took over these warehouses, this company, took over these warehouses and covered the walls and projection screens and basically installed as many projectors as they could and took people on a 30-minute journey that went through Van Gogh’s artwork.

And they kind of basically took his static paintings, because obviously it was static, and then cut them up using [Adobe] After Effects and created this sort of animated storyline that took people through his work.

And it was very successful, it was basically sold out.

And they’ve been replicating that model, with different shows ever since and opening locations around the world. So there’s definitely a hunger for this kind of media. Another place you can experience these are in domes. This is what we primarily work in at Amore360 — where the format is basically a hemisphere; the format is called fulldome. So oftentimes if I meet people and they ask me what I do and I say, well, I create immersive, or dome content – “Oh? What is that?”

What’s the Deal with Domes?

So, you know, if you’ve ever been to a planetarium, you’ve been to a dome show.

In the last 30 years, planetariums have taken their old, star-glow projectors out. If you remember the old days, they used to have these giant projector star systems that were in the middle of the planetarium inside the dome. And they would project stars and planets

and things like that, but it was very limited. So nowadays, basically, they use digital, projectors that are stitched together and then they use immersive audio as well, like surround sound, 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound to create shows that take people through different stories about stars and science and primarily science-related things.

So not necessarily entertainment based. Although that’s now changing. The planetariums are seeing the potential for more entertainment-based media just to get people in the seats, really. But a lot of planetariums have a mandate just to be doing science shows.

Like our, the closest one we have here in Los Angeles, is the Griffith [Observatory], and that’s strictly science shows. But they are immersive. So you know, you do feel like you’re inside of the projection and you do feel like you are surrounded by the story, and so in that case, you’re basically immersed in the story.

I worked on a show called Mesamerica that’s been playing in planetariums, an immersive show that people are experiencing that is affecting them psychologically and — positively.

And what evidence do you have for this?

Talking to them, talking to people afterwards after they’ve experienced it. People who’re watching, people who are crying during the show. I’ve seen people crying in the show before and then afterwards talking to them when we had a premiere, they were basically saying how much it impacted them. 

So were they crying because it was super intense and it was disturbing or ?

No, I think they were being impacted emotionally somehow.

They were! It was the the impact of the immersive experience basically hit them in such a way that it caused them to cry. I can’t explain it exactly, but that is what happened. I think it made them feel — maybe it touched them, and maybe it touched them in such a way that they cried. It touched them in an emotional way.

The intention of the show was to create, it was basically to kind of create a meditative state. And whether it, you know, when you go deep within, and you feel something emotionally. It often causes you to cry. It’s something that can hit you in a way that, you know, you just feel. You just feel it. You’re just – you’re feeling it – you’re feeling it so much that it just, you know, like if you’re watching a movie, sometimes something happens in the movie that makes you feel; it doesn’t necessarily – it’s not a happy or a sad cry, but it just makes you feel emotionally impacted.

Why Is Immersive Exciting? Should People Be Excited by Immersive?

You say you get excited about this, but why should other people get excited about this? Especially if people have not heard of this. 

I think people are looking for an experience, a different experience.

What makes you think that? 

Well, there’s data out there that says so.  

Well, okay, here’s an article in Forbes “How Gen Z and Rich Consumers Are Reshaping the Experience Economy.” So people are looking for experiences that are outside of the traditional media, that being in-person experiences, because they want to experience something different. They’re – people are growing up in a media-rich environment, and they’re looking for something new.

So uniqueness is a trend that is basically what is driving people to seek out these immersive experiences.


Highs and Lows in Recent Immersive

But I just heard that there was this Willy’s Chocolate Factory that really was just a warehouse with some kind of dated props advertised with some AI pictures.

So is that an example of what we’re talking about?

Not necessarily. I think they tried to create an immersive experience, but they didn’t really know what they were doing. So what they didn’t do was —

Did they not know what they were doing? … Or were they committing a fraud?

I don’t know if they intended to create a fraud, but that’s what ended up happening. You know, you would experience this, you know, Willy’s Chocolate Factory. And basically it was an empty warehouse that had a few posters up and some sad looking props and some sad looking actors and what they didn’t do was transport people into a world. They didn’t create a world, they just kind of slapped a coat of paint, not even that, onto a warehouse, and called it a day. And, you know, that’s not what an immersive experience is, because when you walk into, first of all, when you walk into an immersive experience, you’re generally led into the experience through from the opening, from when you cross the threshold into the space. And even before that.

So we went to Luna Luna, for example. 

What’s Luna Luna? How Did It Rate as Immersive?

Luna Luna is an art show that’s been running in LA for the past few months. I wouldn’t call it particularly immersive, but what it does is, it basically transports you to this place with a – it was a recreation of a a fairground that some famous artists like Banksy and Keith Haring were involved with. So they recreated that in this, in these two giant warehouses in LA to bring people in and celebrate this accomplishment that they had done in Germany in the 80s. And people were liking it. People were really, are really, enjoying it, probably because of the famous artists that were involved. I wouldn’t call that particularly immersive, but going back to what we were talking about with experience — 

Well, what’s the difference?

Well, the immers— there was no story. That’s the thing. There was no immersive storytelling.

So there has to – well, Van Gogh, what’s the story with Van Gogh?

What’s the Immersive Story of the Van Gogh Experience?

They had a — they basically took people through the artist’s life and it was a very linear story. And I — it was kind of immersive, but it wasn’t interactive. There was no real way to sort of touch anything. You would basically were just kind of a passive observer.

I’ve heard that these things people consider immersive and that you used as examples for immersive, now you’re saying they’re only kind of immersive.

I would say to making something more interactive makes it more immersive. so if there’s a way that people can actually drive the story. So there’s, you know, there’s immersive theater, for example, where you become part of the story and so your actions drive the story. That’s definitely more of an immersive experience. Whereas something like the Van Gogh Experience, they’re calling it immersive and it’s technically considered an immersive experience, but it doesn’t really it doesn’t hit you emotionally. And I think that’s one of the components of an immersive experience, to be touched emotionally is really how people will remember it. 

So immersive is like an escape room, but with — ? Can be an emotional element? — Could be, you know, an escape room is definitely immersive. There’s definitely a storyline involved with an escape room. There’s the example of Meow Wolf, which we talked about in the last podcast. That’s definitely more of an immersive experience because you’re you’re discovering the story through your experience of this space. And that’s been really popular. So they’re, they’re replicating that in different places because, again, people are coming back to this idea of being less of a passive observer and more of an active participant in the storyline, and that makes things more immersive, for sure.

More than Entertainment – Immersive Is for Healing, Too

Okay. Well, so what else should people know? Just to wrap up about immersive.

well, it’s also being used for, It has a great potential, I think, for healthcare.

There’s a lot of hospitals experimenting with VR in health care. I know Cedars-Sinai, here in LA has, a program.

There are hospitals around the country and around the world that are experimenting with VR in their health care system – both for operations and surgery and training and also for healing purposes for: there’s psychological people are using it for PTSD, healing trauma.

Here’s an example of University of Connecticut, training their doctors to do spine surgery using VR headsets. That’s one example. Like I said, Cedars-Sinai is using it for recovery. I see the potential.

I mean, that’s why I’m so excited about it. I see the potential for, you know, we’re creating experiences, in the domes that basically are really impacting people.

Wrapping Up This Intro to Immersive

So okay. Well, any last thoughts?

VR gaming is a great example of something that’s immersive. where you’re definitely driving the story. There’s something that’s spooling out, and then you’re also surrounded by the visuals. So you’re inside of the visuals. But of course you need a VR headset for that.

So, so you don’t have to go to a place to be doing immersive.

No, not at all. If you have a VR headset, you can and you can be experiencing immersive experiences. And we could imagine there being an immersive experience that you’re not even in a particular place, but you’re interacting with stimuli from, say, a digital device or maybe an interaction with a physical place.

Yeah, exactly.

You know, I think the key is really that the user feels part of the experience. You know, if you’re playing a game on, on a PlayStation or on a TV or on your phone, you know, you’re interacting with it, but you’re not inside of it. You’re not part of it. You’re just outside of the world. And there’s the difference between an immersive experience and a traditional experience is that, you know, with with a traditional with traditional media there’s this plane called the proscenium or like, like a dividing line between you and the content. So with a TV, it’s like you’re looking through a window or if you’re watching a play, you know, the stage is the proscenium and in an immersive experience, you’re inside of it. So there is no sort of division between you and the experience. You are part of the experience.

Okay. Wait, so this sounds like a lot of theater that breaks that division.

So that’s immersive too.

Immersive Has Deep Roots in Theater — But Today Is Different

So people have been doing immersive for ages already.

Absolutely. Immersive theater has existed for a long time. But if you’re in the theater, if you’re in the production, like if you are part of the production, these are actually starting to pop up more and more now. Whereas traditional plays where you’re just in the audience, that is definitely not an immersive experience.

Sure, but it’s not exactly new.

I don’t have an example at the top of my head, but people have been doing theater and breaking that that divide between audience and artists. Yeah, I think those are definitely early experiments with immersion. I think that we as humans have been seeking those experiences because we want to be more involved with, you know, with our entertainment or our experience that we’re engaging in.

So isn’t part of immersive being a trend now that it can be more easily scaled and more easily deployed?

I think so, I think it’s because as the technology improves, we have more opportunities to create, more engaging, immersive experiences, like, for example, for an immersive theater, the set is the experience, right? So it’s a physical set and there may be technology involved, but you could do that 30 years ago. Nowadays there’s more technology like projections, LED screens. And I think one of the things that really failed with the [Willy’s Chocolate] experience is they didn’t have any of that stuff. They advertised projections, they advertised, you know, all this stuff that is typically used in an immersive experience. And they didn’t do any of that. They just had some … banners?

Importance of Core Value and Continuous Improvement for Immersive Productions

And let’s be clear, I think that the [Willy’s] Chocolate Experience was maliciously-produced — far from what was promised.

The Fyre Festival. Engineered. Exactly.

Yeah, exactly. Yeah.

Which begs the question of how did they think they were going to get away with that?!

Right. So as immersive producer experiences, you know, you can use different elements. But I think as long as you can put the elements together and you have the right budget to put them together, and you can take people from, from the beginning to the end and create a lasting experience that they remember. And they’ll tell their friends, and they’ll — you know, they’ll use word of mouth, if you can create that experience, then you succeed in creating an immersive experience, I think. 

We talk about there needing to be not only engagement around value, but there needs to be core value.

And with the Chocolate, with the Wonka, or excuse me, it’s not even Wonka — Wonka wasn’t even included — they’re really clever to, like, not get anybody mad that has a copyright. So they called it “Willy’s Chocolate Experience.” So with that, yeah. It seems as though they didn’t really have that core value figured out.


And unfortunately for this person, I think that was kind of a known AI fraudster.

Okay, so in this case they weren’t even interested in the continuous improvement part, which I think we talk about is like one of the most important things in a project.

Well, you know, basically you need a product, you need to talk about your product and you need to have some function to get better, you know, provide more value, hopefully get more people who want what you have to be interested in it. And to actually get a chance to, to appreciate it.

But then we have to keep going. We have to continuously improve so that I think, wraps up our little piece on what is immersive — little crash course, 20-ish minute piece in “What Is Immersive” and why people should care.

This was Kiya Kersh (she/her). 

Brianna Amore (she/her) and we’re Amore360.

Check out our other content on how-to and what-is that we have available where you social: YouTube / Instagram / LinkedIn

Have a great day.

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