6x9: a non-fiction VR experience worth emulating
Interactive 360 documentary and journalism is the future of learning, news and experience in the slowly to be defined genre of non-fiction VR. 6x9 which was made by The Guardian and published mid 2016 is a combination of audio documentary, graphic design, computer programing, activism and storytelling.
What set this experience apart from other 360 content is the ability to adapt to the viewers gaze while still guiding the viewer along a path. At one point visual “hallucinations” appeared only at the corner of the viewers eyes regardless of where they were looking, feeling very natural in the context of the current narration. There was also a section letting the viewer choose what topic to learn about which created a unique experience tailored to the viewers interest.
Moments of pause let the silence of isolation in solitary confinement sink in, putting the viewer in the shoes of a prisoner. Testimonies of prisoners framed the mindset of the viewer to understand what prisoners go through on a daily basis. The spatial audio, created another level of immersion that many non-fiction experience are lacking despite the obvious standard that is desired.
One piece of the 360 storytelling puzzle which is currently missing (or rather present) is that anxiety inducing feeling of something is happening behind the viewer. When a viewer can’t relax and concentrate on what is directly in front of them they are not able to give proper attention to what they are being guided to see. 6x9 strikes the balance well, allowing the viewer to choose where they look, while making use of the entire 360 space and allowing most of the action to happen in front of the viewer.