Design Standards for Place-Based Immersive Experiences

Lead Research Organisation: Glasgow School of Art
Department Name: School of Simulation and Visualisation


The i-word, "immersion", is increasingly in demand from clients in visitor and cultural attractions. This can mean many things, including large video-mapped installations, 360 films, ambisonic sound or explorations into VR (virtual reality) and AR (augmented reality) in-site specific contexts. However, we find that there are a number of obstacles to its wider take-up: audience perception, technical constraints, the day-to-day operational concerns of managers, investment in technology and the demands of creating truly immersive media.

Glasgow School of Art (GSA) and digital studio ISOdesign propose an interdisciplinary pilot project in the context of a 'Next Generation of Immersive Experiences' that takes a holistic view of the issues around practical design, development and deployment of an Immersive Experience related to the themes of Place and Memory. It will focus on creating a prototype immersive exhibit using the Mackintosh Building at Glasgow School of Art as an exemplar.

Our proposed outputs as part of the project will be not only be a digital AR/VR experience, but also a preliminary set of standards relating to this technology which will help mitigate real and perceived obstacles that currently obstruct deployment of this technology more widely throughout the sector for diverse user-groups.

This is an innovative approach to furthering the deployment of a new generation of immersive content, experiences, and services across the creative industries in that it focuses not solely on the end-user but on how industry professionals are critical voices that must be included in the conversation if projects are to be successful.

Planned Impact

To reiterate in the context of Impact, the main research and development activities we propose to undertake within this project are three-fold;
-To create a digital immersive experience using AR and VR techniques based on the Charles Rennie Mackintosh-designed Glasgow School of Art building as a case-study,
-To undertake user-testing consultations with diverse groups/individuals regarding potential obstacles for embracing/deploying immersive technologies,
-To create a set of preliminary industry standards for the use of Immersive technologies in terms of architectural/heritage/ arts interpretation.

The Impact of each of these, the beneficiaries and how they might benefit are summarised as follows [please see also the 'Academic and Non-Academic beneficiaries' section of this form and Pathways to Impact attachment]:

Adult heritage/museum/cultural visitors and users: Our proposed research will impact this group as it will facilitate the more wide-spread availability and utilisation of immersive experiences for 'general users' through overcoming obstacles and potential barriers to the use, exploitation and scaling up of research outputs in the VR/AR/Immersive world. In essence, developing a set of standards will allow heritage professionals to more easily utilise the technology, to bring VR/AR immersive experiences to the fore for a general audience to engage with, enjoy and be inspired by.

Children [primary aged; 8-11]: Children require a tailored response in relation to experiencing Immersive environments; by undertaking specific user-testing with groups of children (and teachers/carers) we can attempt to create standards for the unique requirements of children in terms of technical issues such as difference in ocular range, and qualitative issues such as engagement with narrative in different ways. This will open up immersive experiences for children in an engaging, accessible, safe way and have a huge impact on their experience of AR/VR.

Teenage & young-adult audiences: A major potential impact of creating a pilot Immersive Experience using the Mackintosh building is to have an impact on new audiences in the understanding and appreciation of culture, heritage, architecture and design. Young-adult and teenage audiences in particular are historically more challenging to engage in heritage activities, and new and innovative new technologies such as VR/AR potentially provide a more successful way of engaging with this audience group. The project plan will include a comprehensive engagement plan promoting the digital content to young adult audience sectors in specific, targeted ways.

Design Industry professionals: Through developing a set of industry standards this project can potentially assist professional designers and developers involved with this technology to overcome and better understand the complexities involved in creating and deploying AR/VR/Immersive experiences, allowing it to be exploited more widely and more successfully amongst audiences.

Industry professionals, Architecture sector: Page\Park architects, the firm undertaking the conservation of the Mackintosh building, will participate in our user-testing and have expressed an interest in the unique aspect of this research project in that it utilises BIM data and other digital assets produced as part of a major building conservation project in new and innovative ways. Project outcomes will be disseminated via architecture profession networks to encourage future exploration of this field.

Industry heritage professionals including specifically International: We will undertake user-testing with museum designers, visitor experience operators, exhibitions staff and an international heritage manager in the context of this group being facilitators, key stakeholders and influencers in terms of the practical deployment of Immersive Experiences.


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