The Power of Immersion: This ain't no ordinary bed time story!

Chanel Turner

Immersive experiences, the thrill of being transported to new worlds and to have your reality re-focussed through the gaze of technology, content and sensory storytelling. But these ain’t no ordinary bed time stories!

In this day and age, the concept of immersion is in high demand. To be transported to new worlds, to unimaginable environments, to be truly moved by an experience, and to have your reality re-focussed through the gaze of technology, content and sensory storytelling.

This ain’t no ordinary bed time story, this is storytelling on dimensions completely unfathomable by past generations. Stories that words alone simply can’t stimulate. These are carefully curated experiences designed to make you react, respond, emote, and leave feeling completely inspired. Whether it be AR, VR, MR, projection art, reactive animation - the list goes on.

An "immersive experience" pulls a person into a new or augmented reality, enhancing everyday life (by making it more engaging or satisfying) via technology.

Combining motion, graphics, colour and light, with sound, touch, taste and smell - It informs, it directs response, it contextualises stories like nothing else can; and it triggers a human reaction, an emotional reaction. They say as humans, we remember not what someone says, but how something made us feel. This desire to be moved by something outside of our self has developed into a worldwide phenomenon.

Being part of this immersive culture, Pufferfish are always left in wonder by what the industry can curate; and we thrive off projects where we can design experiences that bring the WOW-factor, and create truly unforgettable memories. As Victor Pinchuk once said, "Art, freedom and creativity will change society faster than politics."

But with a concept like immersion, where does it stop? Is it forever fluid? As technology and content capabilities develop, will we forever be shocked and impressed? Or will there come a day where we re-focus our attention? When we’ve seen it all before?

We took some time to look into immersive experiences around the world that we feel have set the bar so high, we will always be on a journey to bettering it. And with so many creative businesses around the world honing in on what ‘immersion’ could mean for UI, UX, CX and more, we can’t wait to see what the future could bring for this incredibly inspiring movement.

But first, we spoke to the immersive creators, curators and innovation experts at Igloo Visions. We got their insights into the immersion culture, and why its potency is rapidly shifting popular culture, events, and much more.

Igloo Vision

"At Igloo Vision, we’ve been creating immersive experiences for over a decade. Our Shared VR structures have been used to engage, inspire, and entertain by brands, agencies, and festivals around the globe. And the key to each experience, whether in an Igloo dome or cylinder, is that shared element...

...Stepping inside an Igloo is a bit like stepping inside a giant VR headset – any content that might have been designed for a VR headset, can be experienced as a group in an Igloo cylinder or dome.

For an experience that makes you feel like you’re really there, you can’t beat a VR headset. But, even in a shared virtual space, you’re interacting with avatars. Until a day comes when technology can recreate our faces with full expressions, it’s not the same as a face-to-face interaction...

...Humans are social creatures and we all crave that social interaction. So, with an immersive experience in an Igloo, groups of people can step into the Igloo without the need to put on a headset. They can see each others’ reactions to what’s going on all around them. They can chat about what they see and discuss it together afterwards. It literally brings people together and puts them in the heart of the stories being told.

And it’s when we can share our experiences with others that we truly learn from them. That’s the power of shared immersive experiences."

Natalie Cregan-Evans, Marketing Manager @ Igloo Vision

Immersive Inspiration: Mori Building Digital Art Museum, Japan

Being the world’s first digital art museum, Tokyo’s Mori Building Digital Art Museum was bound to be a total knock out.

And to say it’s been popular, is an understatement.

The brain-child of the Japanese art collective, TeamLab, this thrilling Museum includes 50 technicolour digital artworks, and has seen the likes of Kanye West and Kim Kardashian-West explore it’s thrilling curation. Pictures say a thousand words, and this immersive Museum is committed to the idea that to remember, and to be inspired, one must feel something.

In the words of artist Jawaharlal Nehru, “The art of a people is a true mirror to their minds.” Miro is an embodiment of our wildest dreams, our imagination coming to life; and while it feels like something straight out of avatar, it brings mystical worlds into focus. It is a truly incredible Museum, and one we think will forever be held as an example of how far we can push the boundaries of digital storytelling.

Atelier des Lumieres, France

There is nothing quite like art to connect us to emotion, imagination, and to transport us to different worlds, and different times in history. Art has the power to move us, so with the immersive world flourishing, it’s no surprise some innovators are combining art and immersion. Welcome then, Atelier des Lumieres, a Digital Art Centre in Paris with a stronghold on pushing the boundaries of art and experience culture.

This historical space is a creative hub for all things immersion: art, light, colour, technology, and sensory explorations of history’s greatest artists. Their latest exhibition, ‘Monet, Renoir … Chagall’ is an experience curated to make you live amongst these prolific artist’s greatest works. Suddenly art becomes more than just what you feel as you view a painting; it is now something that surrounds you, covers you, that you can feel, touch, smell. Brush strokes span wide-open spaces, colours cover you from head to toe, you too are part of the artist’s expression, and you can’t help but realise just how breath-taking their talent is.

Immersing audiences in art is a way to manipulate reaction, to stimulate creativity in every visitor; and the idea of bringing historic art back to life in a way modern society can see as new, different, and exciting.

Long may this continue!

Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience, UK

Atelier des Lumieres are also responsible for a Van Gogh journey that is coming to the UK this year. Van Gogh - The Immersive Experience will bring his extraordinary paintings to life from July through December 2020. Based in York’s historical St Mary’s Church, the walls of this architectural beauty steeped in history will be lit up with some of Europe’s most prolific paintings.

A project heavily set in the immersive culture, this exhibition will allow audiences to step inside art, to be transported into the mind of a creative genius, and have the chance to feel the beauty in his work like never before: “You’ll be able to explore his life, his work - and his secrets - as never before through cutting-edge, 360° digital projections, and a uniquely atmospheric light and sound show.”

What technology can do to transform art is simply profound, and having seen success in Italy and Belgium already, it’s great to see this thrilling exhibition coming to the UK. For a man who is considered among the most famous and influential figures in the history of Western art, it’s great to see his work celebrated in such a thrilling manner.

Wonderspaces, USA

A personal favourite of ours, and as a friend to Pufferfish, we simply had to highlight the immersive work of San Diego’s Wonderspaces. Their 2019 exhibition entitled, in common explored many of the very themes immersive culture surrounds: Human connection, emotion, empathy, and how we as humans are linked.

It was a beautifully curated exhibition of 13 pieces of art, each pointing to a few fundamental questions: ‘how are we shaped by our experiences, environments and relationships? While appreciating the uniqueness of our individual journeys, the thirteen pieces focussed on the questions we all have. They highlight our connectivity, pushing us to better understand those around us, and helping us be better understood.’ The exhibition included ANIMA by artist Nick Verstand, and starred our very own PufferSphere Pro.

See more on this thrilling exhibition here, and keep an eye on their website, as the exhibition is due to travel around the United States. But to see art, technology, humanity and content all converge in this sensory art exploration, is an exciting addition to the immersive world.

Alcotraz, UK

Last but definitely not least, it’s less technology and content focussed, but powerfully immersive all the same.

The immensely popular, bar and restaurant culture of immersive dining.

Move aside Breaking Bad jumpsuits and silver caravan bars, the latest addition to this movement is London’s Alcotraz: “Inspired by Hollywood Film and TV that have brought to life popular prison stories, Alcotraz is an immersive theatrical cocktail experience of the highest kind. From your very own orange jumpsuit upon entrance to the real metallic cells, Alcotraz becomes the perfect backdrop to enjoy a drink within an intimate, yet epic environment.”

Who said cocktail culture couldn’t be more than just drinking?! As our generation become more intrigued with immersive experiences, and in being wholey transported beyond the 4 walls of a restaurant or bar, it’s no wonder these creative environments are sparking huge popularity, with pre-COVID bookings sometimes seeing these bars booked out for months in advance. A positive sign of the hunger for immersive experiences beyond the usual customer experience centres, technology labs, events, Museums, galleries, etc. We can’t wait to see what’s next!

There are so many inspiring examples of people pushing the boundaries of immersion around the world, our list could go on and on. Our advice would be to get along to anything and everything you can find, and experience the immersive difference for yourself.

It will be an emotional and truly moving journey, but aren’t all the best memories those filled with feeling?! We certainly think they are.

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