The role of emotion in VR

Human beings are motivated by many different things. Money, fame, happiness, sense of belonging, fulfillment. But what drives those motivators? The choices we make to reach our goals or ideal life are driven by many different factors — instinct, our thoughts, pleasure or even outside forces and obligations.

One key constant during all of these different scenarios is emotion. We choose or don’t choose certain things because of the way we either think they could make us feel, or have made us feel in the past.

Emotions give purpose to an action. We buy that new sweater because we like it and think we will look good in it, which makes us feel happy or excited to wear it. We might go to a party even if we don’t feel like it, because we feel guilty if we don’t. We try to choose a career path that will most align with our values and passions because it will help us to feel fulfilled.

This is no secret to the multi-billion dollar industries that have built their systems, entertainment models and products around this well-known human characteristic. If you go and watch a Pixar movie, with any luck, you’ll leave feeling how the writers and producers wanted you to feel. You’ll grow attached to the characters and then you’ll buy the merchandise. This type of emotion-driven marketing has been proven to be incredibly successful.

We recognize that this can seem quite hollow, but exploiting audience emotion is not typically the main motivator for new brand and experiences — just an unfortunate byproduct of marketing gurus working their magic across the globe.

The human at the center of the experience has always been at the forefront of everything we have been trying to accomplish with VU. As consumers (and humans) ourselves we know all too well how important it is to have our own choices, especially within a gaming environment — and to build our own experience in the way that we want it, with no third-party ulterior motive being pushed on us, other than being encouraged to enjoy participating on our own terms.

Because of this awareness, we have always been focused on building more than just a product that is designed to elicit predetermined feelings and reactions that suit the developer’s whims or advice of the marketing team.

VU is intent on building a ‘conscious’ platform that allows for the expression of emotions and is somewhere to cultivate deep connections. This won’t be a science experiment or proof of concept developed by a bunch of geeks, just for technology’s sake.

VU will always be somewhere that people can come back to and express themselves freely in. We want our community to create organic memories, emotions, and feelings at their own pace, in any way that they choose.

It’s incredibly important, particularly within a VR setting — that people feel connected to the experience on an instinctual level.

That feeling of almost childlike awe that can be seen on the faces of all ages that step into a VR experience for the first time. That’s what makes the experience so special and oftentimes emotional, and above all other motivators, VR should be the catalyst to a pure and organic experience.


Ciaran Foley is CEO of Ukledo and Immersive Entertainment, Inc. a Southern California virtual reality software company developing a new virtual engagement platform called Virtual Universe (VU).

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