Blogs, Education Technology

Immersive Reality: Storytelling, Collaboration & Multi-Sensory Learning

An Introduction to Immersive Reality

Virtual Reality (VR) is so immersive – it takes you to a completely new world. Unlike other popular forms of media such as television, it provides a sense of really being there. Instead of ‘what do you want to watch?’, the question becomes ‘where do you want to go?’ – the possibilities of virtual spaces are endless.

The word ‘immersive’ is used to describe experiences that completely surround a person to make them feel part of an alternative environment. In the context of technology, ‘immersive’ refers to anything that digitally extends or replaces reality for the user. (Digital Catapult, 2020) 

Increasingly found in school classrooms, immersive technology provides alternative real-world experiences which promote students’ level of understanding and encourages innovative thinking in education. (Zheng, 2020)

PMLD learners in an immersive reality learning space

Immersive spaces take on virtual reality in a different way – instead of enclosing the user in a traditional VR headset, which can be isolating and unnerving, it enables a completely different way of experiencing the content. 

The spaces provide shared, multi-user experiences, which is really important for user engagement. Whether it’s pupils and teachers or patients and clinicians, social interaction is vital for empathy and understanding. 

At Immersive Reality, we work with schools to create fully immersive classroom solutions using cutting edge technology alongside our own bespoke digital content. Our mission is to provide enthralling shared immersive experiences that are easy to use and inclusive for all. 

By combining projected 360° digital content onto classroom walls and floors with interactive wall sensors, we create interactive experiences that allow users to become active participants rather than just a viewer.

Explore the galaxy to learn about the solar system. Swim underwater and interact with fish. Walk through a meadow and play with the butterflies. Board an underground train and learn how to navigate through tunnels and up an escalator – we have content to suit almost any situation.

The Multi-Sensory & Collaborative Aspects of Immersive Spaces

The multi-sensory aspects of immersive spaces ensures that all users can be fully involved with the content! Children show complete focus when learning in immersive environments, and staff have seen a peak in the volume of work they produce, compared to lessons in the traditional classroom environment – see our Case Studies for specific comments from teachers and users of our spaces. 

Our high-engagement rooms promote group participation and the development of many key skills, including tracking, cause and effect, hand to eye coordination, colour and shape recognition, as well as social and teamwork skills. 

The technology lets students get to grips with a variety of environments and landscapes like never before. By using projection instead of VR headsets that can be quite isolating, they and their teachers experience these things together, creating group participation and unique social interactions.

Anyone and everyone can ‘live’ and enjoy a huge array of activities in our Immersive Reality spaces. Among the edge-of-your-seat pursuits are paragliding, surfing and scuba diving underwater, which physical mobility may prevent or hinder in real life. 

Interaction and Control

We believe that anyone, regardless of ability, should be able to interact within an Immersive Reality space. Because of this, we have integrated leading technology to allow almost anyone to engage fully with the content – whether it’s gesture, eye movement or touch, as well as Xbox Adaptive Controllers, which are designed primarily to meet the needs of users with limited mobility. External devices can be connected to the controllers, such as switches, buttons, mounts and joysticks to create an accessible and unique controller experience.

A pupil controlling an Immersive Reality space.

As well as the use of controllers, all walls in immersive spaces react to the touch of a hand, arm or foot, making specific scenes exciting and fun whilst enhancing hand-to-eye coordination and tracking skills. There is also gesture control, meaning you can move your hand in mid-air to control aspects of specific scenes. 

Despite having so many advanced features, immersive spaces are still incredibly easy to use – simply press a button on a wireless tablet to select a scene – and you’re ready to go!

Immersive spaces also feature simulated real-life situations in a controlled, reassuring environment, allowing users to prepare for an event with someone they trust. And if it gets too much, the system can whisk them away somewhere safe.

Due to its multi-sensory nature, immersive spaces provide a fantastic experience for children with special educational needs in particular. Our spaces can be used for strengthening social skills, including developing empathy (as users can expose themselves to situations such as war zones and historical time periods) as well as building confidence by encouraging users to talk about their experiences within the room. (Oddone, 2019)

What is Immersive Storytelling?

Immersive storytelling is a technique that uses the latest technologies to create a compelling sense of presence. It gives users the feeling of “being there.” It’s a unique and impactful way of blending reality with fiction. (Forbes, 2020)

Immersion can be described as being engulfed by a place or a thing, transporting people to a time, a place, or even another world. “Immersive physical spaces enable designers to create worlds which encapsulate and overwhelm the senses, placing the visitor at the mercy of the designer’s story world. Through the sensory stimulation of the visitor, an unquestionable reality is constructed, whether real or synthetic, suspending their disbelief and enabling true immersion.” (Tree, 2019)

The best way to teach someone, or to spark curiosity about a subject is to tell a compelling story about it. (Forbes, 2020) When this is done effectively, it can boost people in multiple ways – from inspiring them to take on a new hobby, to helping them to understand the world around them, and much more.

Benefits of Immersive Spaces for Storytelling

Immersive Reality spaces are not only perfect for education, but they are also a space which brings storytelling and experiences to life! 

Our modern, interactive and inclusive spaces are brilliant for bringing people together in a new and innovative way. This is perfect for settings such as a library, where this technology can be used to raise engagement, as well as promote literature and storytelling. (Oddone, 2019)

If a picture paints a thousand words, just imagine what a whole immersive space can do! Reading Dracula in a gothic setting, or Harry Potter in a magical castle. By combining fantastic environments with the spoken and written word, we can open up worlds through imagination.

As well as creating atmospheric scenes for reading, other activities that can be conducted in our spaces include viewing interactive art galleries, adding further dimensions to literature by immersing visitors in the worlds of different stories, or using inspiration from scenes from around the world to inspire creative writing. They can also bring stories from the past to life!

Incorporating virtual reality in public spaces such as libraries has been shown to increase visitor numbers, introduce new audiences into the library space, as well as celebrate libraries as centres of innovation – showing that libraries are changing with the times. (Bayley, 2021) It is the perfect tool to push innovation within educational settings.

Reinventing The Storytelling Experience

Immersive Reality has re-invented the storytelling experience, and provides a truly immersive learning experience. It has a remarkable impact on children’s writing skills. The high-specification projectors and sound systems coupled with sound effects create unique and mesmerising experiences, where children can get lost in their imagination and the literary world which surrounds them.

Our unique content is designed to educate, enthral and entertain and falls into a number of categories:

  • CGI (Computer-Generated Imagery) Immersive Storytelling Scenes – immerses the audience in stunning scenes to elevate storytelling to another level. These include scenes such as gothic candle-lit rooms, perfect for adding a level of drama when discussing mystery or horror themed literature. Our content also includes library scenes, where users feel immersed in a virtual library where the walls are stacked with books – creating a calm virtual environment for collaborative reading sessions. We also have a tent scene, where people can sit in a virtual tent and read, creating an enclosed and peaceful atmosphere.
  • CGI Simulations – free roam environments for discovery and learning. These interactive scenes help to develop key life skills, by helping pupils to improve their coordination by moving through scenes, similarly to how you move through video games. They can then use these scenes to inspire stories, talking about where they have visited and things they have seen on their journeys. 
  • 360° HD Video Experiences – stunning videos from around the world and beyond – almost any experience is possible! Virtually travelling and seeing new places means that pupils can base their creative writing on the different locations and time periods, that without immersive technology, they may otherwise be unable to experience.
  • 360° HD Images – fantastic pictures to inspire and calm. Images of various famous locations in the world can be projected into the room, and the children can be asked to look around them and write about what they see. This is perfect for encouraging interaction, which is especially beneficial for more introverted individuals, as it reduces social barriers, and helps to build a community experience.
  • Bespoke Content – our in-house development team can create content on request and for specific projects! A lot of our bespoke content also supports the curriculum, which is perfect for schools.

The knowledge of the pupils can grow as they embark on immersive storytelling, and teachers find that pupils produce more, better-quality work during lessons as a result of their surroundings. 

Interactive and immersive technology is the perfect tool for bringing people together, whilst enhancing learning and creativity, and promoting storytelling in an innovative and engaging way.

Conclusion

To conclude, immersive spaces provide a fun, unique and engaging alternative to traditional learning and storytelling, as they ensure that all students have the opportunity to get involved with the content.

Immersive Reality opens up a whole new world of sensory experiences, from travelling around the world, to outer space, as well as interacting with exotic animals and taking part in exciting collaborative experiences. 

Pupils can grasp information much more easily when they are able to visualise concepts that were previously only available through a book. Content can be used alongside literature to encourage the discussion of ideas, and create an intriguing atmosphere when pupils are reading.

It’s also a space where pupils can go to self regulate, calm down, and return to class with a new sense of self awareness and control. The possibilities are endless! 

To find out more about our Immersive Reality spaces, visit our website – www.immersivereality.co.uk

References

Bayley, S. (2021) Reading Agency project to bring latest VR technology to 15 libraries. The Bookseller. Accessed from https://www.thebookseller.com/news/new-project-will-bring-latest-ar-and-vr-technology-15-libraries-1285725 

Digital Catapult. (2020). Everything to know about immersive technology. Accessed from https://www.digicatapult.org.uk/news-and-insights/blog-posts/post/everything-to-know-about-immersive-technology/    

Forbes. (2020). Is Immersive Storytelling The New Marketing Frontier? Accessed from https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescommunicationscouncil/2020/11/10/is-immersive-storytelling-the-new-marketing-frontier/?sh=220cdb4698c2 

Oddone, Dr. K. (2019) Even better than the real thing? Virtual and augmented reality in the school library. Accessed from https://www.scisdata.com/connections/issue-110/even-better-than-the-real-thing-virtual-and-augmented-reality-in-the-school-library/ 

Tree, David John. (2019). Adaptive storytelling for immersive spaces. In book: Storytelling beyond the screen (pp.55165).

Zheng, R. Z. (2020) Cognitive and Affective Perspectives on Immersive Technology in Education. The University of Utah, United States.

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