Cultivating presence is one of the main goals for a lot of VR experiences, but our brains are like a black box of perceptual soup that makes it hard to know all of the right ingredients to achieve this. Kimberly Voll is a cognitive scientist, programmer, and VR developer who is a part of the Fantastic Contraption team, and she has a framework for cultivating presence that she refers to as the ‘VR Fidelity Contract’.
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The concept of the VR Fidelity Contract sets up the expectations of a virtual space so that there’s a match between how the affordances are presented to a user and the wealth of knowledge that each person brings based upon their lived experiences. So if there’s a door with a knob on it, then the user would expect to be able to open or close that door. Each time a user performs a successful action in an experience, then it slowly builds trust and the VR Fidelity Contract is maintained. If the user takes an action that wasn’t accounted for (ie: the door doesn’t open), then there could be an expectation mismatch that breaks the VR Fidelity Contract and ultimately results in a break in presence.
I had a chance to catch up with Kimberly at VRLA where she shared some of her process of cultivating plausibility in VR through user testing, the most common things that break presence, as well as her thoughts on the future of artificial intelligence and storytelling in VR.
Fantastic Contraption recently made a significant Kaiju Update that allows users with limited space to scale the environment down and work in the near field.