What do you think of when you hear the word “immersive”?
It conjures up different things for different people. For some, it’s a simple feeling you get hitting the beach, the pool or even the floatation tank.
For others, it’s immersion through imagination – through books, theatre, exhibitions or the cinema.
For the more tech-savvy, immersion may involve picking up their phone, turning on a game console and grabbing a controller or strapping on a head-mounted display to enter a different reality.
All these interpretations are correct. Immersion is sensorial. It hits one or more of your senses – sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste. It makes you physically engage, interact and navigate with and through an experience.
Here are five different methods to immerse you this summer beyond jumping into the ocean.
1. Augmented reality
For the uninitiated, augmented reality is a way to interact with digital content superimposed and interacting with the real world, usually through your mobile device.
While augmented reality hasn’t had a considerable impact post the heady days of 2016 and Pokémon GO, the team behind that worldwide smash haven’t been resting on their laurels.
During game play, you pick a team and your phone is transformed into a “scanner”, and local landmarks are turned into “portals”. Two teams compete to claim ownership of these portals.
And their brand new app Peridot, currently in beta, will be familiar to Tamagotchi owners, here with a few twists. You get to raise, care for and even breed your virtual pet with other player’s pets in order to avoid extinction.
But unlike Tamagotchis of old, you can take these creatures for virtual walks, as you explore the actual, physical world around you.
What is augmented reality, anyway?
2. 3D movies
See that fancy flatscreen television sitting in the corner of the lounge? Chances are that if it was purchased in the early to mid-2010s it may have been part of the push for 3D TVs and may have even come with a bunch of 3D glasses similar to the ones you might get at the cinema.
There are some great hidden 3D gems you can watch at home.
The Young and Prodigious T. S. Spivet (2013), is a lovely example of a road movie, as our ten-year-old protagonist travels across the country to accept an award from the Smithsonian for inventing a perpetual motion machine.
Slightly more adult is Long Day’s Journey Into Night (2019), which plays like a Lynchian dream for most of its running time and features an astonishing hour-long 3D sequence presented as a single take as the film’s protagonist wanders through town.
Finally, the 2018 Oscar winner for animated feature, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a downright trippy and loopy experience if you can find it in 3D.
3. Escape rooms
Immersive experiences don’t have to take in technology.
In an escape room, a small team bands together to solve a series of puzzles to “escape” from the “room” these puzzles are set in.
You can find many different escape rooms in almost all Australia’s capital cities. My personal favourite is the Cipher Room in Sydney’s inner west and their monochrome, film noir inspired Marlowe Hotel.
My advice is to dress up in black and white to make for a completely immersive experience, as you and your friends solve a series of clues in order to break into the hotel and retrieve some incriminating documents.
4. Virtual reality games
While embracing new tech, why not get your retro-gaming fix simultaneously?
Older gamers might remember the classic 1990s CD-Rom adventure Myst, where the player explores a mysterious island solving puzzles along the way (also serving as inspiration for thousands of escape rooms across the globe).
The game has now been re-imagined for virtual reality as a free-roaming adventure and has never looked better.
Fans of 2000s consoles systems will get a kick from Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin which continues the wacky Tim Burton-esque aesthetics of the classic Psychonauts (2005), picking up the story from the end of the first adventure and taking it into new dimensions and levels.
As per the original game you take on the role of Raz, as you use his psychic powers to solve a series of puzzles to escape the Rhombus of Ruin. Terrific for a bit of lazy afternoon casual gameplay.
Fans of first-person shooters will dig the multi award-winning Half-Life: Alyx.
This is the game to play if you want to sweat it out, as you run around fighting against aliens that have taken over the Earth. Alyx’s storyline serves as a prequel to Half-Life 2 (2004), and features some hilarious voice acting from Rhys Darby as the character Russell. Highly recommended.
5. 4DX movies
James Cameron has finally finished his sequel to 2009’s Avatar, and the best way to experience Avatar: The Way of Water is going to be the fully immersive experience of 4DX, a cinema experience available in most capital cities. The technology blends on-screen images with synchronised motion seats and environmental effects such as water, wind, fog, fragrance, snow and more.
Cameron’s film should offer a completely immersive experience, using the 4DX cinema’s synchronisation of 3D visuals, motion simulation and fog effects. Especially given the flying and underwater sequences, the wind and water effects should make for a completely immersive experience over summer.