Realism versus immersion

Yesterday we had a discussion about the relative benefits of realism and immersion. It was in the context of using technology for socially hanging out.

Suppose you are socially hanging out with somebody over a distance. Given the current level of technology it would be very difficult to achieve a high degree of visual realism of the other person while also giving you both the feeling of being physically immersed in the same room.

You can certainly achieve visual realism alone. All you need for that is a video camera and commercially available software such as Zoom.

You can also achieve the feeling of physical immersion. We did that with our Siggraph project The Outpost.

In that project, everyone definitely has the feeling of being in the same physical room. But that room is an alien planet, and everybody looks like a robot.

Personally, I find shared physical immersion to be far more compelling than visual realism. Given a choice I would generally choose immersion in a heartbeat.

But that choice assumes several things, including high frame rate, low network latency, correct head and hands positions, and shared spatial audio. Without those, the shared feeling of physical immersion tends to fail.

I wonder whether, as technology improves, we will end up adding ever greater visual realism to the experience of shared physical immersion. Or will we abandon visual realism entirely, in service of other goals?

I guess only time will tell.

One Response to “Realism versus immersion”

  1. Luiz Velho says:

    Hi Ken,

    I totally agree! In fact, I have experienced that today enjoying the Pandora-X event at the Venice VR Festival.



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