Immersive Media Experiences – Why finding Consensus is Important

Authors:
Asim Hameed (NTNU Trondheim, Norway), Andrew Perkis (NTNU Trondheim, Norway), and Christian Timmerer (Alpen-Adria-Universität (AAU) Klagenfurt and Bitmovin Inc., Austria)

Editors: Tobias Hoßfeld (University of Würzburg, Germany), Christian Timmerer (Alpen-Adria-Universität (AAU) Klagenfurt and Bitmovin Inc., Austria)

An introduction to the QUALINET White Paper on Definitions of Immersive Media Experience (IMEx) [1].

Introduction

Immersive media are reshaping the way users experience reality. They are increasingly incorporated across enterprise and consumer sectors to offer experiential solutions to a diverse range of industries. Current technologies that afford an immersive media experience (IMEx) include Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), Mixed Reality (MR), and 360-degree video. Popular uses can be found in enhancing connectivity applications, supporting knowledge-based tasks, learning & skill development, as well as adding immersive and interactive dimensions to the retail, business, and entertainment industries. Whereas the evolution of immersive media can be traced over the past 50 years, its current popularity boost is primarily owed to significant advances in the last decade brought about by improved connectivity, superior computing, and device capabilities. In specific, advancements witnessed in display technologies, visualizations, interaction & tracking devices, recognition technologies, platform development, new media formats, and increasing user demand for real-time & dynamic content across platforms.

Though still in its infancy, the immersive economy is growing into a dynamic and confident sector. Being an emerging sector, it is hard to find official data, but some estimations project the immersive media global market size to continue its upward growth at around 30% CAGR to reach USD180 Bn by 2022 [2,3]. Country-wise, the USA is expected to secure 1/3rd of the global immersive media market share followed by China, Japan, Germany, and the UK as likely immersive media markets where significant spending is anticipated. Consumer products and devices are poised to be the largest contributing segment. The growth in immersive consumer products is expected to continue as Head-Mounted Displays (HMD) become commonplace and interest in mobile augmented reality increase [4]. However, immersive media are no longer just a pursuit of alternative display technologies but pushing towards holistic ecosystems that seek contributions from hardware manufacturers, application & platform developers, content producers, and users. These ecosystems are making way for sophisticated content creation available on platforms that allow user participation, interaction, and skill integration through advanced tools.

Immersive media experience (IMEx), today, is not only how users view media but in fact a transformative way to consume media altogether. They draw considerable interdisciplinary interest from multiple disciplines. As stakeholders increase, the need for clarity and coherence on definitions and concepts become all the more important. In this article, we provide an overview and a brief survey of some of the key definitions that are central to IMEx including its Quality of Experience (QoE), application areas, influencing factors, and assessment methods. Our aim is to enable some clarity and initiate consensus, on topics related to IMEx that can be useful for researchers and practitioners working both inside academia and the industry.

Why to understand IMEx?

IMEx combines reality with technology enabling emplaced multimedia experiences of standard media (film, photographic, or animated) as well as synthetic and interactive environments for users. They utilize visual, auditory, and haptic feedback to stimulate physical senses such that users psychologically feel immersed within these multidimensional media environments. This sense of “being there” is also referred to as presence.

As mentioned earlier, the enthusiasm for IMEx is mainly driven by the gaming, entertainment, retail, healthcare, digital marketing, and skill training industries. So far, research has tilted favourably towards innovation, with a particular interest in image capture, recognition, mapping, and display technologies over the past few years. However, the prevalence of IMEx has also ushered in a plethora of definitions, frameworks, and models to understand the psychological and phenomenological concepts associated with these media forms. Central, of course, are the closely related concepts of immersion and presence, which are interpreted varyingly across fields; for example, when one moves from literature to narratology to computer sciences. However, with immersive media, these three separate fields come together inside interactive digital narrative applications where immersive narratives are used to solve real-world problems. This is when noticeable interdisciplinary differences regarding definitions, scope, and constituents require urgent redressal to achieve a coherent understanding of the used concepts. Such consensus is vital for giving directionality to the future of immersive media that can be shared by all.

A White Paper on IMEx

A recent White Paper [1] by QUALINET, the European Network on Quality of Experience in Multimedia Systems and Services [5], is a contribution to the discussions related to Immersive Media Experience (IMEx). It attempts to build consensus around ideas and concepts that are related to IMEx but originate from multidisciplinary groups with a joint interest in multimedia experiences.

The QUALINET community aims at extending the notion of network-centric Quality of Service (QoS) in multimedia systems, by relying on the concept of Quality of Experience (QoE). The main scientific objective is the development of methodologies for subjective and objective quality metrics considering current and new trends in multimedia communication systems as witnessed by the appearance of new types of content and interactions.

The white paper was created based on an activity launched at the 13th QUALINET meeting on June 4, 2019, in Berlin as part of Task Force 7, Immersive Media Experiences (IMEx). The paper received contributions from 44 authors under 10 section leads, which were consolidated into a first draft and released among all section leads and editors for internal review. After incorporating the feedback from all section leads, the editors initially released the White Paper within the QUALINET community for review. Following feedback from QUALINET at large, the editors distributed the White Paper widely for an open, public community review (e.g., research communities/committees in ACM and IEEE, standards development organizations, various open email reflectors related to this topic). The feedback received from this public consultation process resulted in the final version which has been approved during the 14th QUALINET meeting on May 25, 2020.

Understanding the White Paper

The White Paper surveys definitions and concepts that contribute to IMEx. It describes the Quality of Experience (QoE) for immersive media by establishing a relationship between the concepts of QoE and IMEx. This article provides an outline of these concepts by looking at:

  • Survey of definitions of immersion and presence discusses various frameworks and conceptual models that are most relevant to these phenomena in terms of multimedia experiences.
  • Definition of immersive media experience describes experiential determinants for IMEx characterized through its various technological contexts.
  • Quality of experience for immersive media applies existing QoE concepts to understand the user-centric subjective feelings of “a sense of being there”, “a sense of agency”, and “cybersickness”.
  • Application area for immersive media experience presents an overview of immersive technologies in use within gaming, omnidirectional content, interactive storytelling, health, entertainment, and communications.
  • Influencing factors on immersive media experience look at the three existing influence factors on QoE with a pronounced emphasis on the human influence factor as of very high relevance to IMEx.
  • Assessment of immersive media experience underscores the importance of proper examination of multimedia systems, including IMEx, by highlighting three methods currently in use, i.e., subjective, behavioral, and psychophysiological.
  • Standardization activities discuss the three clusters of activities currently underway to achieve interoperability for IMEx: (i) data representation & formats; (ii) guidelines, systems standards, & APIs; and (iii) Quality of Experience (QoE).

Conclusions

Immersive media have significantly changed the use and experience of new digital media. These innovative technologies transcend traditional formats and present new ways to interact with digital information inside synthetic or enhanced realities, which include VR, AR, MR, and haptic communications. Earlier the need for a multidisciplinary consensus was discussed vis-à-vis definitions of IMEx. The QUALINET white paper provides such “a toolbox of definitions” for IMEx. It stands out for bringing together insights from multimedia groups spread across academia and industry, specifically the Video Quality Experts Group (VQEG) and the Immersive Media Group (IMG). This makes it a valuable asset for those working in the field of IMEx going forward.

References

[1] Perkis, A., Timmerer, C., et al., “QUALINET White Paper on Definitions of Immersive Media Experience (IMEx)”, European Network on Quality of Experience in Multimedia Systems and Services, 14th QUALINET meeting (online), May 25, 2020. Online: https://arxiv.org/abs/2007.07032
[2] Mateos-Garcia, J., Stathoulopoulos, K., & Thomas, N. (2018). The immersive economy in the UK (Rep. No. 18.1137.020). Innovate UK.
[3] Infocomm Media 2025 Supplementary Information (pp. 31-43, Rep.). (2015). Singapore: Ministry of Communications and Information.
[4] Hadwick, A. (2020). XR Industry Insight Report 2019-2020 (Rep.). San Francisco: VRX Conference & Expo.
[5] http://www.qualinet.eu/

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