Keys for immersion in the open space: Original comparative study – preliminary report


Delivery date: 31/08/2023 (M12) – UPSaclay

In the upheaval of the last three years, Bianca Li’s Le Bal de Paris, developed by BackLight, involved
ten spectators equipped with VR headsets dancing with the company’s dancers on the stage of a
virtual social world. London’s Royal Opera House, with Figment Production, opened the opera to
hyper-reality for four lucky spectators equipped to see, hear and touch a 15-minute
multi-dimensional virtual opera in a box built on the Opera House stage itself.

The Finnish National Opera is also trying to go elsewhere with Violet Disruption and Vitamin Studio, bringing not artists but avatars to the stage. Opera Beyond is developing an XR stage design platform to make virtual and augmented reality tools available to directors, set designers, lighting designers and producers.

Charles Ayats and Vincent Dupont’s creative project No Reality Now equips all spectators in a room
with VR headsets for a double spectacle between the magic and augmentation of theatre and those
of digital immersion, while the dancers, dressed in motion-tracking suits, move around the stage.

Advances in immersive technology are clearly an important driver of the experience economy,
increasing the breadth, depth and intensity of the spectator experience in cultural centres.

Immersion is now seen as a requisite for art whether it is live performances, installations, or
exhibitions. It may be overused with the mere idea of surrounding the spectator or visitor with
videos or paintings. It may be enforced by capturing the experiencer’s senses with head-mounted
displays (HMDs) and headphones or by confining the experiencer in a controlled environment –
typically a dark and isolated room – with a set of video and sound projections like at Les Ateliers des
lumières, the Musée océanographique de Monaco, or at SAT. It might also be embedded in public
spaces to induce unconstrained immersive experiences in an open environment where spectators
would then be passers-by with no intention whatsoever to follow the proposed reality shift.

Immersion in public spaces is thus a challenge that we propose here to investigate along the keys for
seamless immersion.

The study will be centred around the interactive audio-visual installation Ariadne’s Fibres, located in a
public corridor in the shopping mall Forum des Halles in the centre of Paris, and will aim to assess the
experience of passers-by through both qualitative (questionnaires) and quantitative measures (video
analysis). The assessment will be repeated for multiple variations (scenarios) of the installation which
will differ in hardware and software aspects. A comparison of the passer-by experiences for the
different scenarios will then allow us to determine the key parameters for immersion in open spaces.
In the present document, we report on the current status of this study, explaining in particular how
the study was constructed and planned and presenting some first results obtained in the framework
of a selected reference scenario. It shall be emphasised that the main part of the study will consist of
a comparative analysis of a set of scenarios from which the key parameters for immersion in open
spaces will be inferred. This main part of the study is currently in preparation and will be reported in
the final deliverable, due in M24 of the project (August 2024). The work is carried out by the teams
of Université Paris-Saclay (UPSaclay), Politecnico di Milano (POLIMI) and CULTURALINK (CLINK) for
the task T1.1 of the Artcast4D project.