Why people love immersive, interactive experiences – and how you can create amazing ones

This installation was created by Seeper for the Shrek Adventure attraction in London.

Ed Daly, managing director of Seeper, explains the best approach to creating experiences that people will love.

Brands have employed increasingly sophisticated marketing techniques to engage customers since the Madmen heyday of the 50s and 60s, but customers have also become increasingly sophisticated in how they engage with brands.

Technology is to blame, of course. It has completely overhauled the way that Generation Y (and Z!) consume brand messaging. They are no longer passive consumers – they are in complete control of how, when and where brands communicate with them and this makes the job of reaching them ever more complex.

Technology can also be the saviour, too. Through technology, brands can create immersive, interactive experiences that engage customers.

It's a sensory thing

At Seeper we believe strongly in the power of truly immersive, multi-sensory experiences. By appealing to all the senses (including the cognitive engagement that interactivity entails) the experience will create a more powerful and lasting memory and so be more effective in inspiring action in the future.

The good news is that customers enjoy immersive experiences and this has been driving the technology required to create them, including larger displays, 3D and virtual reality headsets. However, while technology like Oculus Rift is amazing, for example when it comes to playing video games, when we’re talking about customer engagement, it can limit what is most important for Seeper.

Instead, we are focused on integrating the technology to transform real world spaces, which people can explore and interact with freely and together. This is the reason we often use projection: it can be incorporated into environments without requiring an audience to focus on yet another screen. This approach also allows us – and our clients –  to engage with all of the customers’ senses rather than just their eyes and ears. Unless all the senses are accounted for, then the illusion of immersion breaks and the brain’s attention is drawn to what’s wrong and not what’s right.

Inspiration for experiential projects

Some examples of this working in the art world include the artist James Turrell and the work he has developed over the past few decades, in particular his work in the Roden Crater. Although his work isn’t technically interactive, it embodies the experience of immersion perfectly.

United Visual Artists are also great crafters of beautifully interactive immersive artworks. Their piece ‘Monolith’ from 2005 was a very successful installation. And the work of Daniel Rozin is also interesting to see.

Examples of Seeper projects practicing what we preach include Clear Noise, an interactive installation about focus in a world of distraction, or our Watchmen project, a holographic installation that recreated a scene from the film as an interactive experience for Secret Cinema

Seeper recently designed and programmed an installation comprising hundreds of lights, audio channels, screens, projectors, smell, wind, smoke and dynamic scenery for the new Shrek Adventure! London visitor attraction (below). For the reasons mentioned above, it was critical to synchronise every one of these elements – the spatial audio, the interplay of lighting, screens and projection, the smells, the atmospherics – to maintain the illusion and to truly engage visitors.

The future of experiential

We are all too aware at seeper that we have only scratched the surface of what’s possible. We believe engaging the senses in immersive real world experiences creates memory and inspires action, the other driving force for seeper in engaging customers is the search for something new.

We are bombarded with messages 24/7 and that competition makes it difficult to win peoples’ attention and is also why it’s so important that we keep finding new ways for visual arts to achieve this.

The technology always moves on of course. The idea of allowing technology to control the environment and objects within it is gaining currency under the (weirdly named) Internet of Things banner. The driver for this connectivity is largely about data collection and logistical efficiency. However, we have always ‘hacked’ things to make them work for us, and the idea that we can take over more and more of the world around us, even if subverting it from its original purpose - that could be interesting. 

Advice for better experiential projects

When creating the illusion of depth in projection, it is imperative that the content is created with regard to the viewpoint of the audience. This means knowing exactly where your projector will be placed and using that as the point of view from which you model the digital version of your building or object onto which you will be projecting. The content should also then be rendered from that same point of view within your 3D software.

In architectural projection, consider how best to work with existing detail. Ornate elements can work well if you pick out that detail, but will constrain the ability to create other effects that stray too far from the physical geometry. Simple areas and structures provide more of a blank canvas, enabling more freedom for illusions and visual expression.

In creating an experience, it’s imperative to know your audience and consider the story you’re seeking to tell (in an interactive work the audience create their own stories). A ‘wow’ moment - the collapsing building in a projection show, or a lighting finale - will be vastly more effective if delivered at just the right time to deliver the emotional payoff.

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