Solving Complex Issues through Immersive Narratives — Does QoE Play a Role?

Authors: Andrew Perkis (NTNU – The Norwegian university of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway), Asim Hameed (NTNU – The Norwegian university of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway), Shafaq Irshad (NTNU – The Norwegian university of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway)

Editors: Tobias Hoßfeld (University of Würzburg, Germany), Christian Timmerer (Alpen-Adria-Universität (AAU) Klagenfurt and Bitmovin Inc., Austria)


A transdisciplinary dialogue and innovative research, including technical and artistic research as well as digital humanities are necessary to solve complex issues. We need to support and produce creative practices, and engage in a critical reflection about the social and ethical dimensions of our current technology developments. At the core is an understanding that no single discipline, technology, or field can produce knowledge capable of addressing the complexities and crises of the contemporary world. Moreover, we see the arts and humanities as critical tools for understanding this hyper-complex, mediated, and fragmented global reality. As a use case, we will consider the complexity of extreme weather events, natural disasters and failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation, which are the risks with the highest likelihood of occurrence and largest global impact (World Economic Forum, 2017). Through our project, World of Wild Waters (WoWW), we are using immersive narratives and gamification to create a simpler holistic understanding of cause and effect of natural hazards by creating immersive user experiences based on real data, realistic scenarios and simulations. The objective is to increase societal preparedness for a multitude of stakeholders. Quality of Experience (QoE) modeling and assessment of immersive media experiences are at the heart of the expected impact of the narratives, where we would expect active participation, engagement and change, to play a key role [1].

Here, we present our views of immersion and presence in light of Quality of Experience (QoE). We will discuss the technical and creative considerations needed for QoE modeling and assessment of immersive media experiences. Finally, we will provide some reflections on QoE being an important building block in immersive narratives in general, and especially towards considering Extended Realities (XR) as an instantiation of Digital storytelling.

But what is Immersion and an Immersive Media Experience?

Immersion and immersive media experiences are commonly used terms in industry and academia today to describe new digital media. However, there is a gap in definitions of the term between the two worlds that can lead to confusions. This gap needs to be filled for XR to become a success and finally hit the masses, and not simply vanish as it has done so many times before since the invention of VR in 1962 by Morton Heilig (The Sensorama, or «Experience Theatre»). Immersion, thus far, can be plainly put as submersion in a medium (representational, fictional or simulated). It refers to a sense of belief, or the suspension of disbelief, while describing  the experience/event of being surrounded by an environment (artificial, mental, etc.). This view is contrasted by a data-oriented view often used by technophiles who regard immersion as a technological feat that ensures a multimodal sensory input to the user [2]. This is the objective description, which views immersion as quantifiable afforded or offered by the system (computer and head-mounted display (HMD), in this case).

Developing immersion on these lines risks favoring the typology of spatial immersion while alienating the rest (phenomenological, narrative, tactical, pleasure, etc.). This can be seen in recent VR applications that propel high-fidelity, low-latency, and precision-tracking products that aim to simulate the exactitude of sensorial information (visual, auditory, haptic) available in the real world to make the experience as ‘real’ as possible – a sense of realness, that is not necessarily immersive [3].

Another closely related phenomenon is that of presence, shortened from its original 1980’s form of telepresence [3]. It is a core phenomenon for immersive technologies describing an engagement via technology where one feels as oneself, even though physically removed. This definition was later appropriated for simulated/virtual environments where it was described as a “feeling of being transported” into the synthetic/artificial space of a simulated environment. It is for this reason that presence, a subjective sensation, is most often associated with spatial immersion. A renewed interest in presence research has invited fresh insights into conceptualizing presence.

Based on the technical or system approach towards immersion, we can refer to immersive media experiences through the definitions given in in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Evolution of current immersive media experiences

Figure 1. Definitions of current immersive media experiences

Much of the media considered today still consists of audio and visual presentations, but now enriched by new functionality such as 360 view, 3D and enabling interactivity. The ultimate goals are to create immersive media experiences by digitally creating real world presence by using available media technology and optimizing the experience as perceived by the participant [4].

Immersive Narratives for Solving Complex issues

The optimized immersive experience can be used in various domains to help solve complex issues by narration or gamification. Through World of Wild Waters (WoWW) we aim to focus on immersive narration and gamification of natural hazards. The project focuses on implication of immersive storytelling for disaster management by depicting extreme weather events and natural disasters. Immersive media experiences can present XR solutions for natural hazards by simulating real time data and providing people with a hands-on experience of how it feels to face an unexpected disaster. Immersive narratives can be used to allow people to be better prepared by experiencing the effects of different emergency scenarios while in a safe environment. However, QoE modeling and assessment for serious immersive narrations is a challenge and one need to carefully combine immersion, media technology and end user experiences for solving such complex issues.

Does QoE Play a Role?

Current state-of-the-art (SOTA) in immersive narratives from a technology point of view is by implementing virtual experience through Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) and Mixed Reality (MR), commonly referred to as eXtended Realities (XR) seen as XR. Discussing the SOTA of XR is challenging as it exists across a large number of companies and sectors in form of fragmented domain specific products and services, and is changing from quarter to quarter. The definitions of immersion and presence differ, however, it is important to raise awareness of its generic building blocks to start a discussion on the way to move forward. The most important building blocks are the use of digital storytelling in the creation of the experience and the quality of the final experiences as perceived by the participants.

XR relies heavily on immersive narratives, stories where the experiences surround you providing a sense of realness as well as a sense of being there. Following Mel Slaters platform for VR [5], immersion consists of three parts:

  1. the concrete technical system for production,
  2. the illusions we are addressing and
  3. the resulting experience as interpreted by the participant.

The illusions part of XR play on providing a sense of being in a different place, which through high quality media makes us perceive that this is really happening (plausibility). Providing a high-quality experience eventually make us feel as participants in the story (agency). Finally, by feeling we are really participating in the experience, we get body ownership in this place. To be able to achieve these high-quality future media technology experiences we need new work processes and work flows for immersive experiences, requiring a vibrant connection between artists, innovators and technologists utilizing creative narratives and interactivity. To validate their quality and usefulness and ultimately business success, we need to focus on research and innovation within quality modeling and assessment making it possibly for the creators to iteratively improve the performance of their XR experience.

A transdisciplinary approach to immersive media experiences amplifies the relevance of content. Current QoE models predominantly treat content as a system influence factor, which allows for evaluations limited to its format, i.e., nature (e.g., image, sound, motion, speech, etc.) and type (e.g., analog or digital). Such a definition seems insufficient given how much the overall perceptual quality of such media is important. With technologies becoming mainstream, there is a global push for engaging content. Successful XR applications require strong content to generate, and retain, interest. One-time adventures, such as rollercoaster rides, are now deal breakers. With technologies, users too have matured, as the novelty factor of such media diminishes so does the initial preoccupation with interactivity and simulations. Immersive experiences must rely on content for a lasting impression.

However, the social impact of this media saturated reality is yet to be completely understood. QoE modeling and assessment and business models are evolving as we see more and more experiences being used commercially. However, there is still a lot of work to be done in the fields of the legal, ethical, political, health and cultural domains.


Immersive media experiences make a significant impact on the use and experience of new digital media through new and innovative approaches. These services are capable of establishing advanced transferable and sustainable best practices, specifically in art and technology, for playful and liveable human centered experiences solving complex problems. Further, the ubiquity of such media is changing our understanding for mediums as they form liveable environments that envelop our lives as a whole. The effects of these experiences are challenging our traditional concepts of liveability, which is why it is imperative for us to approach them as a paradigmatic shift in the civilizational project. The path taken should merge work on the technical aspects (systems) with the creative considerations (content).

Reference and Bibliography Entries

[1] Le Callet, P., Möller, S. and Perkis, A., 2013. Qualinet White Paper on Definitions of Quality of Experience (2012). European Network on Quality of Experience in Multimedia Systems and Services (COST Action IC 1003). Version 1.2. Mar-2013. [URL]

[2] Perrin, A.F.N.M., Xu, H., Kroupi, E., Řeřábek, M. and Ebrahimi, T., 2015, October. Multimodal dataset for assessment of quality of experience in immersive multimedia. In Proceedings of the 23rd ACM international conference on Multimedia (pp. 1007-1010). ACM. [URL]

[3] Normand, V., Babski, C., Benford, S., Bullock, A., Carion, S., Chrysanthou, Y., Farcet, N., Frécon, E., Harvey, J., Kuijpers, N. and Magnenat-Thalmann, N., 1999. The COVEN project: Exploring applicative, technical, and usage dimensions of collaborative virtual environments. Presence: Teleoperators & Virtual Environments, 8(2), pp.218-236. [URL]

[4] A. Perkis and A. Hameed, “Immersive media experiences – what do we need to move forward?,” SMPTE 2018, Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites, Los Angeles, California, 2018, pp. 1-12.
doi: 10.5594/M001846

[5] M. Slater, MV Sanchez-Vives, “Enhancing Our Lives with Immersive Virtual Reality”, Frontiers in Robotics and AI, 2016 –

Note from the Editors:

Quality of Experience (QoE) in the context of immersive media applications and services are gaining momentum as such apps/services become available. Thus, it requires a deep integrated understanding of all involved aspects and corresponding scientific evaluations of the various dimensions (including but not limited to reproducibility). Therefore, the interested reader is referred to QUALINET and QoMEX, specifically QoMEX2019 which play a key role in this exciting application domain.

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