Posted by Franco Barroeta

Immersive has been a new buzzword on the last recent years. Its applications surely come in many forms, but in this article I will focus on digital immersive experiences, since physical immersive is a whole different subject.

There is no question that a lot of the public space has been equipped with some type of screens, and 5G internet has been the catalyst to change how we interact with digital content, at least in certain countries where it’s a reality. But to clearly communicate here, let’s get some terms and definitions out of the way first.


Immersive Technologies Exploring VR AR  XR


Alternate Realities

XR: Stands for Extended Reality. It is a broad term that encapsulates all forms of digital Realities and the mixture or evolution of any of them.

AR: stands for Augmented Reality, a type of digital content that is overlaid on top of the physical world through a device such as a smartphone or tablet. The user sees the real world through a window that layers digital assets on top of it.

MR: stands for Mixed Reality. It is the evolution of Augmented Reality, where digital objects interact with the physical world, but this time the layout and geometry of the physical world take a crucial role, as digital components interact with it and follow some of its rules like perspective, weight and mass, scale, etc. this is experienced mainly through glasses that track the physical space and integrate digital components on it. The user sees the real world through a device that fully integrate digital assets inside it.

VR: stands for Virtual Reality, in this case the digital content is experienced though a fully contained visor that on its basic form, uses the orientation of our head to immerse us in a fully 360 digital environment. On its most recent and advanced form, VR artists are able to skin or represent an alternate version of the physical world with a digital representation (sometimes called Hyper Reality), allowing us to move on a physical space and even see other people as the accurately move as fully digital avatars or with replaced digital features. The user sees a digital world but is able to interact with it though some it its physical characteristics.


Immersive Technologies Exploring VR AR  XR


A Fascinating Medium

Even though a lot of what XR has been successfully used for is infographics, training videos, and a lot of niche entertainment, it has been less explored as an expressive storytelling medium.

Understanding how XR is expanding the traditional film language, and even evolving to new frontiers is key to be able to use it and incorporate it to a new project. But I think, the big obstacle in converting either mainstream audiences and directors entirely to these technologies has been that some of them are still clunky and not simple enough to set up by the average user, especially VR.


Immersive Technologies Exploring VR AR  XR

Augmented Reality

Some Rad VR Examples

Carne y Arena: This extraordinary VR experience directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, much richer than a typical VR project, in the sense that it incorporates much more of the cinematic language and a lot of multi-sensorial devices that make the whole experience truly immersive. The story basically takes the viewers alongside some immigrants’ journey as they try to illegally cross border from Mexico to the U.S. as they encounter various obstacles and conflict along the way.

The Void: This immersive experience actually changed my point of view about VR, as it is the first time that in my opinion, it truly felt like something much more than a novelty, and proved that this medium is truly beginning to explore its full potential. You get to choose different interactive narratives based on existing IPs. The innovation is the way it incorporates both physical spaces, props, and reactions to the environment that are perfectly timed to the digital experience.

Sandbox: Just as The Void, Sandbox focuses on creating experiences that are far more involving that a typical VR game. With the use of haptics technology and the latest motion capture techniques, Sandbox VR is truly unique and promising to expand the medium to new heights. Much more focused on the social and team building dynamic, you get many proprietary games to choose from which develop in different genres, from futuristic, action packed sci-fi to horror.


Immersive Technologies Exploring VR AR  XR


Immersive Narratives

There are a vast number of impressive examples of the use of immersive projects that rely heavily either on the technology or the practical use of it ether as a novelty or as a utilitarian purpose. But there are a few examples based on the strength of its narrative component.

VR has started to being successfully used in VFX and animation heavy productions, working as a real time vision in which directors and instantly preview the outcome of a complex shot that requires many digital assets and making notes on real time without having to wait for dailies and saving some post production costs along the way. This is just the beginning of its true potential as more artists and audiences embrace it as an extraordinary creative and expressive tool.


Immersive Technologies Exploring VR AR  XR


Speculating the Future

I’ve always been fascinated to the opportunity to expand personal expression to new places, but have always also been careful and critical to not jump into a fad bandwagon to soon or invest too much time in something that will be irrelevant in at least 10 years. VR is certainly not new, and it has failed at past attempts even back in the 90s to be commercially viable as a mainstream medium.

As it has always been a bit risky and pretentious to predict future trends, take this question as fascinating imagination exercise. Where could immersive digital technologies take us in the next 5 years, and to better frame the question, let’s ask, where do we want to take immersive digital technologies?

Personally, I’d love to include more invisible physical involvement in VR experiences to a certain level, which is possible right now through the use of haptics, a technology that simulates the senses of touch and motion in the forms of vests and the like. Wearables are becoming more lightweight and invisible and this will surely leave great room to improve how we experience immersive media in the future. As we tend to spend much more time in front of screens, let’s hope for immersive technologies to lean more towards the group dynamics and social experiences rather than isolating ones.


About Franco Barroeta

From Cartoons to Commercials The Many Facets of Animation

Franco Barroeta is a Creative Director based in Mexico with 18 years of experience in direction, motion graphics, storytelling and animation. He is the founder and director of TOTEM Studio, specializing in motion design and immersive experiences. Part time university teacher and full time dad and husband, obsessed with books and prefers to draw with a pen rather than a pencil.



Previous Stage 32 Blogs by Franco: 

From Cartoons to Commercials: The Many Facets of Animation


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