The ‘Elemental Theory of Presence’ is a useful model created by Kent Bye for describing the qualitative elements of a virtual reality experience.
(also known as: ‘telepresence’)
(see also: active presence, embodied presence, emotional presence, and social presence)
a feeling of being in and of the virtual world, and the ignoring of physical world distractions
It is the strong illusion of being in a place in spite of the sure knowledge that you are not there.1
1. Mel Slater. Place Illusion and Plausibility Can Lead to Realistic Behaviour in Immersive Virtual Environments Pg 5.
(also known as ‘hand presence’)
an immersive state that is reached as a consequence of using a handheld tool/device (peripheral) within a VR experience
a state that evokes an emotional response from the experiencer e.g. empathy, joy, or fun, within a virtual reality (VR) experience
choosing to actively engage with others within a VR experience
acknowledging the existence of your body within a virtual reality VR experience
In physical reality and first order virtual reality there is something very simple that you can do to physically establish your presence. Look down, and you will see your body, or see parts of it continuously in peripheral vision.1
1. Slater, M. “Place Illusion and Plausibility Can Lead to Realistic Behaviour in Immersive Virtual Environments”Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2009 Dec 12; 364(1535): 3549–3557 Pg 10.
a design paradigm that allows users to move freely within a room-sized environment while partaking in a virtual reality (VR) experience
Through the use of kinetic locomotion mechanics (in the Perambulation category), the experiencer’s physical movements are mirrored within the virtual world and helps to contribute to a greater sense of immersion, with the body being directly engaged – a key contributor to creating a state of embodied presence.
The term room-scale is often used to differentiate between other types of virtual reality experiences e.g. a self-contained environment of a VR room or seated or standing VR, in which the user remains stationary.
refers to the process of moving from one place to another
This is most commonly used to refer to movement within the virtual environment e.g. how an avatar navigates the virtual world, but can also refer to movement outside of the virtual environment e.g. how the experiencer navigates the real-world while in a virtual experience.
Locomotion mechanics in virtual reality can be broken down into three primary categories:
a device that helps enhance a virtual reality experience by enabling greater immersion within the virtual world
The most common VR peripherals are gloves or controllers e.g. the Oculus Touch that look to mirror the experiencer’s innate movements and help to facilitate better active presence.
a form of non-verbal communication through the body – typically the hands or head – that, when tracked by a motion sensing camera attached to a computer, can be interpreted as movement and mirrored in virtual reality
Quantum Story Theory
a principle of crafting an experiential story within a virtual world proposed by Chief Creative Officer at The Void Curtis Hickman and further developed by Director of Story Development Tracy Hickman
Virtual Reality Infographics
Getting your head around the Metaverse and alternate realities isn’t an easy challenge so here are some simple infographics to help simplify the wonderful world or virtual reality.
The Reality Scale
The VR Experience Scale
Virtual Reality experiences can be mapped along 3 primary scales: Reality, Interaction, and Movement. (As defined by human interface design and innovation company Punchcut).
The VR Immersion Scale
In their paper ‘A Grounded Investigation of Game Immersion’ Emily Brown and Paul Cairns define three phases of immersion and six barriers of entry.
Virtual Reality Theories of Presence
In recent years there have been a number of attempts to describe how the state of presence is created in virtual reality.
The below graphic depicts two theories: Kent Bye’s ‘Elemental Theory of Presence‘, and the ‘Perceptual Theory of Presence’. The two theories have been anchored by Mel Slater’s two illusions of presence: place illusion (PI) and plausibility illusion (Psi)
The Agency Scale
‘Agency‘ is the capacity of an entity (a person or other entity) to act in an artificial environment. It is a key contributor to enabling a state of presence in the experiencer.
a colloquial name for a method of testing if an experiencer has reached a state of presence by monitoring their behaviour when threatened by a virtual object
(see also: ghost story)
the sensation of having no tangible relationship with your surroundings despite feeling embodied in the virtual world
The phrase was coined by Story Studio and the name is a reference to actor Patrick Swayze who played the protagonist in the 1990’s film Ghost. In the film, Swayze’s character dies and returns as a ghost to help his wife solve the mystery of his death. The effect observed by Story Studio, looks to describe the struggle of affecting a virtual environment and the people who occupy it when no observable feedback from the world is being received.
plausibility illusion (Psi)
the acceptance that the scenario being depicted is actually occurring
Another way of thinking of this illusion is as the automatic and rapid response from the experiencer to the important question: Is this really happening? If the response is ‘no’ then the illusion is broken.
place illusion (PI)
the feeling of existing in a place
Place illusion (PI) was put forward by Mel Slater as one of two illusions that contribute to a sense of presence. It is often discussed in conjunction with the Plausibility illusion (Psi):
(see also: ‘local agency‘ and ‘global agency‘)
the capacity of an entity (a person or other entity) to act in, and influence, an artificial environment
(see also: ‘agency‘)
interactivity that flavours the experience, but is unlikely to send it down a different narrative path
(see also: ‘agency‘)
interactivity where the experiencer’s actions could yield some sort of outcome or have a consequence on the narrative
(also known as a ‘story generator’)
a generalisation of the ‘drama manager’ concept put forward by Joe Bates in Virtual reality, art, and entertainment. Originally published in Presence: The Journal of Tele-operators and Virtual Environments, Pg. 133–138, 1992.
an intelligent, omniscient, and disembodied agent that monitors the virtual world and intervenes to drive the narrative forward according to some model of quality of experience. Often used as a surrogate for the human author.1
1. Mark O. Riedl and Vadim Bulitko. Interactive Narrative: An Intelligent Systems Approach. AI Magazine Pg 3.