Tutorial. Does it work as a standalone experience?
Most people consider a tutorial as easy to follow, but it does not work as a standalone experience. The respondents often do not listen to the voice of the narrator; they are waiting for the instructions of the assistant. After observing dozens of people of different ages, I have the impression that at the first contact with VR there are so many different stimuli and sensations that the sense of hearing is "switched off." After a few minutes, with the support of someone from the outside, these people become more confident, and then they open up to voice messages from the presentation. The only way to improve seems adding additional visual clues and animations.
The presentation in the first place was planned as an assisted experience, on location. The virtual reality equipment – backpack computer, goggles, and manipulators – are difficult to operate for a beginner. They need guidance. The tutorial requires more visual clues. In addition, my design of virtual doors was implemented only partially. The glass cube with the door in the middle of the room is devoid of visual effects I planned. People are disoriented which door to choose.
Navigation. Is it intuitive and does it preserve immersion?
It does preserve immersion, but for some people without prior VR experience, the teleporting or “jump” is unnaturally fast, which creates a certain feeling of distance from the experience. It is not intuitive what to do and where to go. Experienced gamers are more used to interaction with unexpected conditions. After a few repetitions of the "jump", the user’s movement gets a bit smoother. The common problem is getting up the ladder to the last level. The illumination of the expected direction is also not always understandable. Not everyone wants to go towards the light.
A possible solution for it could be to turn the guidance light into a flashing cycle. This could be implemented easily but it was never done because of the contract. Human mind perceives changing elements of the environment more distinctly. The dissolved light inside the organ is still too strong, in spite of my correction. There is also a need to explain how to hold the manipulators. Most people point the manipulators upwards, while they should bend the wrist and point them downwards to set the “jump” indicator to the right position. As an improvement, I made an additional manual to supplement the guidance of an assistant.
Story. Is it clear and retellable?
In most opinions, the plot is clear and quite simple, although people have a problem to follow the story. They admit that it is nice to see a human character as a guide. Choosing directions or navigating might be confusing, for example it might be difficult to have to go back, to open a door, or to to climb a ladder. Viewers in the VR world focus on what is happening around, on their experience, and listen mostly to the person who supports them in the real world. Sometimes, only after completing the tour and removing the goggles, they ask questions about what they actually saw and where they were. Some people ask for a possibility to play a few sounds on the organ. An element of interaction could appear in the organist's workshop sequence, instead of merely standing and watching (raising the pipe or something like that). Respondents do not always concentrate on the story, because their attention is focused on the way they move. Some people claim that they would follow the instructions if they could repeat the experience.
The narrative in virtual reality does not have the same impact as in flat cinema. Unexperienced users are often stunned with the new kind of experience. The immersion dominates over storytelling significantly. To maintain the balance between the story and the immersion it would be necessary to strengthen the visual clues. Narrator’s guidance is not enough. The option to play the organ would increase the cost of the realization and distract users’ attention. However, signaling such a need indicates that the story is not emphasized enough. People are trying to explore the environment on their own. On the other hand, we cannot force people to follow the storyline. I took into consideration that some of them will want to explore the new environment and will not follow the narrator. That is why I added the time limit to the main version of the presentation (it has three different scenarios). It naturally ends the presentation for people who prefer the individual way of exploration.
Sound. Does it live up to expectations?
There are problems with sound volume during the experience. The narrator's voice is too low; you cannot hear the content. Users have problems to follow the guidance. A person using a hearing aid had could not follow it at all. The sound quality is good, but all that is happening around the viewer and the level of noise in the real environment make a significant impact on the intelligibility of the voice.
The sound was not correctly implemented by the VR sound programmers. They promised to deliver an advanced method of tracking the sound direction based on the headphones angle but it was never fulfilled. I had to improve the quality myself, adding a reverb effect to all audio files to make it more realistic. I asked for an impression of the voice coming from the inside of the instrument, but instead, it was leveled down. In view of the fact that the presentation is often used in a crowdy and loud environment, this poses a serious problem disturbing the storytelling.
Immersion/Realism. Is it believable, does it induce the desired impact?
Users feel totally immersed. The sense of height and depth were convincing enough for one user’s brain to induce a fit of vertigo and we had to break the experience. She understood where she was and felt the sensation of being inside the instrument. Another user, suffering from claustrophobia, was so scared that she had a problem to go inside. She was afraid to fall off the edges. There are opinions from people who have seen the real organs inside that what they see in the presentation is a little bit worse, but they are also aware that it is a digital equivalent of a real instrument. There are also questions from people who have never seen the instrument inside if it really looks like that. They are truly surprised.
The computer rendered parts in 3D work well, but the 2D live-action sequences lose the sense of scale, which is a common problem connected with 360 degree filmmaking. The impact of the presentation on the people shows how strong a virtual reality experience is, but also proves that the immersion meets the expectations and this part of the presentation is well made.
The survey I carried out after the premiere proves that it is absolutely necessary to provide four levels of beta testing for such an advanced, experimental realization. During the first level of testing, I made conformity assessment with the initial idea, script, and compliance with the real instrument; during the second level I focused on general rules of movement and interactivity; the third level was a thorough elimination of game errors. The fourth level could possibly improve the quality of the experience and eradicate the remaining errors.
A creative technologist needs to be constantly vigilant to what is happening around and ready to leap into action quickly. He/she should be up to date with the changes that are constantly introduced during the production as the schedule is modified. The worst scenario is when the budget or the time limit is reached and introducing a next round of corrections is not possible anymore. On the other hand, each artistic project has to have its end, therefore it is better to achieve progress, not perfection. Tight budgets and time limits trigger creativity and provoke us to find new ways to accomplish and to present artworks. The dilemma every artist confronts is when to stick with familiar tools and materials, and when to reach out and embrace those that offer new possibilities. All artists test new means of expression, but in time exploration gives way to expression.  It is also related to risk that the finished work is not perfect because each next work could be even better. Against all odds, my job as a creative technologist dynamically contributed to the creation of the film and virtual reality realization.