I am researching what opportunities for storytelling augmented reality might offer creators and how personal data might effect this. I am particularly interested in how augmented reality offers a unique experience to audiences. Most other forms of digital media employ screens as portals, within which audiences can view a story in a world different to their own, whereas AR allows for the same creativity and storytelling opportunities as other media but places those stories in the world of the audience, existing in the same world as the audience rather than transporting them somewhere else. If a story is to take place reasonably in the same world as the audience it should be able to recognise and understand aspects of the audience, responding and changing the narrative if necessary. This is where audience data and its relationship with multi-linear narratives and interactivity come into play with my research.
Having reviewed the current literature on these three topics (non-linear narratives, AR, audiences and their data) I have started to write and build the AR experience that will form the basis of my research. The experience will be similar in appearance to dating simulators, a genre of game traditionally popular in Japan but increasingly popular internationally. A single audience member will sit down at a table, put on an AR headset, and have a three dimensional recording of a real person appear in front of them. A story will then play out in which their date will suggest they play a game. At a certain point during this game their date gets a text message and, depending on how they’ve been acting and reacting up until this point and how they react to the message, the audience is lead down several different story paths ending in one of 18 possible endings. The experience will use eye tracking to track the direction and duration of gaze of the audience and microphones to detect when and for how long the audience talk for when communicating with the character in the story. The content of their speech won’t be important as we’ll be using cold reading techniques and Barnum statements to write the characters’ dialogue to be applicable to a wide variety of situations.
We will then survey audience experience along several factors in response to different versions of the experience. Different version might vary in the medium they are presented and the detail of that presentation, the amount of interactivity and narrative linearity, and the data that they use from the audience. We want to find out what factors of linearity, AR, and audience data help shape audience enjoyment. Enjoyment has been linked to the better spreading or understanding of the content or message of a story, so for new story telling methods, such as AR, to tell stories effectively how much they are enjoyed is an important factor to measure.
This author is supported by the Horizon Centre for Doctoral Training at the University of Nottingham (RCUK Grant No. EP/L015463/1) and BBC.