5 Principles Needed to Humanize Metaverse Experiences


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Imagine the moment when you arrive at the theater to attend a concert, speak or perform. Anticipation builds as you walk through the warmly lit entrance, ticket in hand. As you ascend the stairs, the doors swing open to reveal the grand scale of the space, the whispering audience and the lit stage. When you find your seat, the lights go out, the curtains part and the opening music turns up. The show is about to begin.

Events are defined by their rituals, growing thrill, and narrative progression. From the moment you approach the entrance until the final applause dies down, a well-designed theater will convey a sense of occasion and shared purpose. Historically, people are good at building these places – spaces that enhance the quality of our shared experiences – in the physical world. And it is just as possible to build them in a virtual one.

With virtual reality (VR) entering the mainstream on a regular basis – this month news broke of two new helmets from Meta and sony, both intended to broaden the adoption of virtual reality – it is essential that designers create virtual spaces that recognize our humanity. As a designer of virtual places used by thousands of people, I want to share the knowledge that my team and I have gathered so that other designers can create experiences that will be remembered long after the headsets are retired.

Take inspiration from the real world, but note the differences

The fundamentals of virtual event spaces are similar to real venues, as is their design process. Often our design team brings in architects to make sure we learn real-world principles.

“There are specific audience, program and context considerations – it’s just that this audience is made up of avatars and the context is virtual,” says architect Christopher Daniel, who designs live performance venues. and virtual. “We have the ability to work with elements of a concert hall in Berlin or a theater in Buenos Aires, bypassing physical limitations and creating virtual locations that are both fantastical and authentic.”

Keep in mind that virtual spaces however, have different requirements. We have found that virtual audience members need more space between seats to feel comfortable. And sightlines from the seats to the stage must take into account that audience members are simultaneously in the room together, as well as around the world in separate physical environments. This means avatars often move more often and more erratically than they would in a physical location. To ensure that other members of the public are not distracted, we generally install each level of seating higher than it would be in a physical space, with seating more spread out.

Be specific in your material choices

Create compelling virtual experiences is a world-building exercise. Whether an environment is entirely fantasy or reality-based, whether it feels “real” is a critical factor in its immersive potential.

We experience virtual worlds up close, which means every environment requires attention to fine detail. From the type of stone chosen, to the cut and grain of the wood – think mahogany or red cedar, not just “brownwood” – a high level of craftsmanship will make your space a destination people want to go to. come back.

Design virtual spaces with audio in mind

The most compelling VR spaces are multi-sensory, so thoughtful use of audio elements is key to placing audiences in a new world. There are many techniques to consider, including environmental sound, spatially anchored sound, audio feedback to reward specific interactions, or a mix of each.

Whatever your approach, effective spatial audio adds tangibility to a space while enhancing the impact of compelling visuals. The lapping of distant waves or the passing of a seagull overhead can bring a space to life, so consider how your landscape contributes to your soundscape.

Empathize with your audience

Virtual reality poses a new challenge for creatives: when you can create anything, how do you choose where to start?

An initial discovery phase is essential to deepen the understanding of the purpose of a space and the intended audience. How do you want your guests to feel? How will the space serve them? Or surprise them? The goal is for artists, user experience (UX) designers and technologists to be open to inspiration at this stage while keeping the audience and the purpose of the event in mind.

At this stage, it is also essential to establish constraints and define what the environment is. not. We often use Miro boards and Pinterest to highlight things to avoid – low ceilings, light strips, flashy chrome – so we don’t build something generic or characterless. This process helps the creative team eliminate ambiguity, build a shared visual vocabulary, and express any assumptions.

Think of your virtual event as a story

With every virtual reality event, we tell a story with a beginning and an end, much like an actual performance. To ensure participants feel this narrative progression, it helps to provide cues inspired by screenwriting fundamentals, such as the classic three-act structure.

The beginning of each event, for example, should serve as the first act, the one characterized by staging and exposition. Greet your guests, show them around, and provide initial information that inspires them to explore further. It’s important to guide participants – many of whom might be new to VR – gently from the start before increasing the complexity.

This growing action should culminate in the presentation or performance of the opening speech of the event, generating a different response from the audience. It’s also essential that guests know what to do when the main event ends by providing clear steps for leaving the space and moving on.

Humanity will remain vital even as technology evolves

Like most technologies, virtual reality is evolving at an exceptional speed. Designers today are faced with the task of optimizing experiences around the constraints of current headsets while preparing for the next evolution. The future will present even greater challenges. Artificial intelligence (AI), for example, will soon generate not just concept art, but entire virtual worlds.

Designing spaces with storytelling at the heart will continue to be a human differentiator. As we venture into the metaverselet’s not forget our humanity.

Michael Ogden is the creative director of the VR company hypnotizewhere he runs their in-house creative lab, Atmospheric.

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