Sounds and visuals can make or break an immersive experience, so all aspects of the virtual environment should support the story. If something looks or sounds different than what the user expects — such as a cell phone ringer sound effect being used for a radio call, or radio sound effects for a phone call— our brains will throw us out of the immersive experience.
The environment, visuals, story and sound should all support each other.
A new world
Virtual environments can be overwhelming at first — especially to novice users, so in addition to creating an immersive world, it is also important to ensure that people have time to acclimate and learn the rules of this new world.
TL;DR Do’s and Don’ts
- Give users time to adjust to the new world before beginning the tasks or goal experiences.
- Start slow, with simple interactions and ease them into the new world.
- Give a clear path to exit with plain verbiage.
- Don’t throw the user into the experience and immediately expect them to perform intensive tasks.
- Don’t obstruct the user’s view with UI elements that disrupt the experience.
- Create a simple sandbox-type area where the user can get used to the new world and can try and practice various interactions.
- The user may still need to make adjustments to the headset or controllers. Give them control over when to start and stop the experience instead of starting the application immediately on launch.
- Give the user a few chances to successfully complete various interactions in an onboarding tutorial to increase retention — especially for interactions that are essential to successfully navigating the new environment or completing required tasks.
Example experiences to try
Oculus First Contact
Their onboarding experience highlights the buttons and requires you to press them and try the various interactions that are needed to successfully use the platform. They then reinforce what you’ve learned by having you interact with a robot and other elements within a playground environment. What’s especially stunning is how delightful and compelling they make the entire experience while you’re learning how to interact with this new world.
Polyarc does an exceptional job using sound, haptics, environment and narration to all work together to make it feel like you’re immersed into a storybook. Even though it uses low poly modeling for better performance, the environment is still beautiful and the careful attention to detail shows.
Spatial and stereo audio are used purposefully to grab your attention and have you look in various directions to proceed the story.
They also have a clever way of handling how you are immersed into the story by having you become a spirit that guides and protects Quill along her journey. By having her wave at you and look down at the water, it has you look down at which point you can see you’re a character in the story. Ghosted controllers are used as the story progresses to tell you which button to use when, allowing you to get right into the story and go at your own pace since you control Quill’s movement.
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I’m an Immersive Tech UX Design Professional with over 22 years of experience designing for kiosks, websites, mobile apps and desktop software for many well-known and not-so-well-known companies.
I’m not speaking on behalf of or representing any company. These are my personal thoughts, experiences and opinions.