Spatial Immersion versus Emotional Immersion,
Which is More Immersive?
Chenyan Zhang, Andrew Perkis, Sebastian Arndt
Department of Electronic Systems,
Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) (Trondheim, Norway)
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Abstract—In this paper, we defined and measured two
types of immersion, namely, spatial immersion and emotional
immersion, on flat 2D screen displays and using a 33-item
questionnaire. Our results show that emotional immersion is
significantly more immersive than spatial immersion in terms
of sense of “being there”, time perception, realism, sense of
engagement, emotional aspects, sensory cues, etc. Spatial
immersion is almost as immersive as emotional emotion in
terms of attention and image motion, and spatial immersion is
more immersive than emotional immersion in terms of spatial
dis-orientation. Our results also show that there are
individual differences in the perception of immersion. Finally,
we linked parameters of measurement with QoE influencing
factors, in an aim to bridge the gap in the QoE assessment and
modelling of immersive experience in storytelling.
Keywords—Spatial immersion; Emotional immersion;
QoE influencing factors; Immersive Storytelling
With the notion of Immersive Media Technology Experiences
(IMTE)  gaining increasing momentum, the quality assessment
and modelling of IMTE becomes an urgent task, due partly to the
fact of the increasing pervasiveness of immersive media and
technologies, partly to the enhanced design and innovation
requirements from the producers’ side and the heightened user
experience, usability and enjoyment requirements from the users’
side. Among the many influencing factors of QoE, the ability of a
multimedia system to immerse the users or audience is an
important defining factor in designing and evaluating the
multimedia systems, and this is particularly true in digital
storytelling. However, the extent to which a storytelling content
can be marked as "immersive" and the criteria of how and why an
immersive scenario is defined have not reached a definitive
consensus, to the extent that even attempts to clarify these gaps
seem sparse and few . This is particularly true given the fact
that in immersion literature only a limited amount of
measurements are discussed without distinguishing what the
nuanced types and degrees of immersion are there in the reality.
In this paper we are distinguishing between two types of
immersion: spatial immersion and emotional immersion. We are
not trying to do a mutually exclusive distinction or a full range
classification here. What we are trying to do is to pick up some
influencing factors of immersion (such as spatiality and emotion)
to experiment with and discuss them in terms of their impact on
Spatial immersion refers to the type of immersion triggered
and maintained by the spatial qualities of the virtual environment.
In spatial immersion, the immersive effect of the virtual
environment can be achieved by the deliberate manipulation of a
few spatial compositions of the scene, such as swift zoom-in and
zoom-out, abrupt change of camera angles, or the whirling
sensation of on-the-fly sky-diving shots. All these filmic
techniques achieve a phenomenological experience as if the user
could walk into the virtual environment and touch and feel the
spatial mise-en-scène. This kind of illusory experience created by
the spatiality of the virtual environment can be dizzying and dis-
orientating, depending on the user's own physiological coping
abilities, yet the stimulation and adrenaline of a bewildered
sensory-motor system offers increased excitement and sense of
presence in storytelling [3, 4].
Emotional Immersion is the type of immersion when the user
feels emotionally aroused and absorbed by the narrative content
of the story. Different from spatial immersion, emotional
immersion does not necessarily allow users to feel the "bodily
presence" into the scene, but allow them to be cognitively
identified and emotionally empathized with one of the characters
of the story or avatars in the game world.
We want to investigate the following research questions:
What characteristics of storytelling lead to spatial immersion,
and what characteristics of storytelling lead to emotional
immersion? Can spatial immersion and emotional immersion
be measured with QoE assessment methodologies, and how?
Do spatiality and emotion increase the degree of immersion in
storytelling? If so, which specific quality or qualities of them
play a significant role in immersion? And which one is leading
to greater degree of immersion, the spatial immersion or
Are subjective and qualitative QoE assessment methodologies
appropriate and sufficient for the measurement of immersion?
What are the advantages and disadvantages of these
methodologies, particularly when measuring spatial
immersion and emotional immersion?
II. RELATED WORK
Immersion is a complex phenomenon that demands multiple
levels of neuro-psychological involvement such as perception,
attention and emotion. Its mechanisms and development
trajectories during the spectatorship processes of games and
storytelling have far from been fully investigated and thoroughly
understood, though substantial fruitful attempts have been made
in the past. These previous works, though rudimentary and
sometimes implicit, provide the foundations for our theoretical
formulation and empirical study.
A. Immersion and its related concepts
There are several similar concepts associated with immersion,
namely, flow, presence, engagement, engrossment, cognitive
absorption, narrative involvement, puppetry, and transportation
[5, 6, 7, 8, 9]. In the study presented by this paper, we consider
them as similar concepts with slightly different scopes. Thus, we
are trying to obliviate the nuanced differences among them, and
consider them as homogeneous or synonymous towards one
central theme of “immersion”.
The definitions of immersion are diverse and multi-faceted,
yet the most celebrated one is that of Janet Murray’s, which is
“the pleasurable experience of being transported to an elaborately
simulated place” and “the sensation of being surrounded by a
completely other reality that takes over all of our attention and
our whole perceptual apparatus” . This definition points out
several key aspects of immersion, such as transportation,
simulation, sensation, attention and perception. Full immersion
has been described by Brown & Cairns  as being a feeling of
“entirely cut off from reality.” Similarly, Turner et al. 
consider immersion as “being positively associated with the
degree of technologically-mediated sensory richness that
facilitates isolation or decoupling from the real world.” Coomans
& Timmermans  defines immersion as a feeling of being
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deeply engaged in a “make-believe world as if it is real.” This
belief, according to Salen & Zimmerman , is termed as
“immersive fallacy” when “the virtual reality is so complete that
the player truly believes that he or she is part of an imaginary
world”. Furthermore, Brown and Cairns  depict immersion as
“a Zen-like state where your hands just seem to know what to do,
and your mind just seems to carry on with the story.” Another
generally agreed-upon definition of immersion is borrowed from
Sense of Presence - “the feeling of ‘being there’” . In
particular, presence is defined by Witmer & Singer  as a
“subjective experience of being in one place or environment, even
when one is physically situated in another.”
B. Types of immersion:
There are a number of attempts to classify immersion, among
which were Diegetic and Non-Diegetic immersion , Diegetic
and Situated immersion , Mental and Physical immersion
, Sensory, Challenge-based and Imaginative immersion ,
Perceptual and Psychological immersion , Sensory-Motoric,
Cognitive and Emotional immersion , Sensory, Fictional and
Systemic immersion , Spatial, Narrative, Strategic and
Tactical immersion , Spatial, Ludic, Narrative and Social
immersion , Egocentric and Exocentric immersion ,
Physical presence and Self-presence , and Visceral and
Vicarious immersion . Generally, these can be summarized
into two types of immersion: 1) Embodied immersion: non-
diegetic, situated, physical, sensory(-motoric), perceptual, spatial,
egocentric, and visceral; and 2) Empathetic immersion: diegetic,
mental, imaginative, fictional, cognitive & emotional,
psychological, narrative, exocentric, vicarious, and self-presence.
Our criterion is the “self-other” dichotomy of mediated identity,
i.e., whether a user is mindful of the “bodily experience” of the
Self, or the cognitive and/or emotional experience of the Other
(the other self) in the virtual environment.
1) Embodied immersion (non-diegetic, situated, physical,
sensory(-motoric), perceptual, spatial, egocentri
This category of immersion allows the user to feel the “bodily
presence” into the virtual environment, as if they could physically
enter into the story and even interact with the virtual objects.
Embodied immersion deploys the recruitment of sensory-motoric
adjustment and control over the virtual environment instead of
cognitive-emotional processing of the story. For instance,
physical immersion is described as “bodily entering into a
medium”  or “the possibility of ‘entering’ a computer-
simulated VR environment and of interacting ‘physically’ with
the objects inside it, of receiving their responses in real time,”
, or “synthetic stimulus of the body’s senses via the use of
technology” . Sensory immersion is concerned with the
audiovisual presentation of a game, utilized in such a way as to
overpower any external, real-world sensory information [20, 28].
Perceptual immersion is the extent to which the game experience
"monopolizes" the player's senses . This can be accomplished
by “blocking as many of the senses as possible to the outside
world and making it possible for the user to perceive only the
artificial world, by the use of goggles, headphones, gloves, and so
on .” Spatial immersion has been characterized by Witmer &
Singer  as the "subjective experience of being in one place or
environment, even when one is physically situated in another.”
2) Empathetic immersion (diegetic, mental, imaginative,
fictional, cognitive & emotional, psychological,
narrative, exocentric, vicarious, self-presence):
This category of immersion allows the user to form a mental
representation of the real world experience, and project it into the
virtual environment, using either imagination, or other
psychological, cognitive or emotional apparatus as a vehicle. For
instance, mental immersion is considered as being “engaged to the
point of suspending disbelief in what they are experiencing” .
Imaginative immersion is “the sensation of being mentally
absorbed by a story, its world, or its characters” .
Psychological immersion suggests the player’s engagement in the
game using their imagination or their sense of “mental absorption”
. In the game world, emotional immersion represents a
“positive empathic link toward the avatar” . Narrative
immersion is “a state of intense focus on a narrative, elicited by a
strong sense of place and the joy of exploration and brought about
by emotional attachment to characters” . In a role-player
survey, 82.9% of participants confirmed that they have
experienced the emotional immersion to “identify so strongly
with one’s character that it becomes one’s primary identity” .
In summary, as Witmer & Singer suggest, "When identifying
with a character in a book or movie, individuals tend to put
themselves in the character’s place, and in a sense, experience
what that character experiences” .
We position our research within the theoretical framework of
the above two general categories of immersion. Our study aims to
measure embodied and empathetic immersion, and compare
which one is more immersive. To ease understanding among
wider populations, we use their lay language definitions: spatial
immersion and emotional immersion. Our hypothesis is:
H: Emotional immersion is more immersive than spatial immersion.
This hypothesis is based on the consideration that spatial
immersion evokes mainly sensory-motoric re-adjustment,
whereas emotional immersion involves cognitive re-adjustment,
thus the latter leads to greater level of neuro-psychological
activation. III. EXPERIMENT
A. Experiment procedures
A total of 45 participants were recruited in the study. They
were randomized into two groups. The inclusion criteria were
normal vision, mental alertness and fair level of English ability.
Before the experiment, they were asked to fill in a demographic
sheet about their age, gender, educational background, English
level, experience with virtual environment and online videos. The
demographic conditions of the participants are as follows: age
ranges from 21 to 65 years old (mean: 34, median: 29). Education
background ranges from high school to Doctorate degree. There
were 23 male participants and 22 female participants. All
participants are current employees or students of Norwegian
University of Science and Technology (NTNU), and they are
from 21 nationalities, ranging from Europe (58%), Asia (36%),
Africa (4%), and North America (2%). The majority of the
participants are active users of online video services: 27% of the
participants use online video services on a regular basis (1-3
times a week), and 60% of the participants watch online videos
almost every day.
Before the experiment, they were asked to fill in an 18-item
questionnaire about their tendencies to immersion . Then the
first group (TV group, 23 participants) were required to sit
comfortably in a dim dark laboratory environment to watch two
pieces of storytelling content of 7 minutes each on a 40-inch LCD
display one by one. According to ITU recommendation, the
viewing distance is four times the height of the screen . Then
the participants were asked to fill in a 33-item questionnaire after
each content, which measures their immersive experiences in
watching the videos. The second group (tablet group, 22
participants) were following exactly the same procedures, the
difference being that this group were watching the same
storytelling contents on a 10-inch Android tablet screen. The
participants were required to naturally hold the tablet at a position
comfortable for them. In the TV group, audio was presented via
external PC loudspeakers. The tablet group was exposed to the
audio via the integrated loudspeakers of the device. In both cases,
the audio was set to a general comfortable level of loudness by
the experimenter and was maintained the same for all participants.
The intention of dividing the participants into a TV group and a
tablet group was to measure the different impact of devices. All
the questionnaires were filled out with paper and pen.
3) Stimulus materials:
The two pieces of storytelling content are characterized as
either “spatial” or “emotional”, where the spatial content is an
architectural visualization of a residential project, and the
emotional content is a fairy-airy love story with elements of
humor and surprise. Both contents were selected from YouTube
under the Creative Commons License, by matching the
definitions and criteria of spatial immersion and emotional
immersion as closely as possible. Both videos were of 720 HD in
resolution and had been downloaded to local hard drive while
playing to ensure that the bitrates are roughly equal. A typical
frame from each content sequence is presented in Figure 1 and
Figure 2. We randomized the order of which content appearing
first to offset the order effect. To minimize the potential language
barriers, there is no speech of any language in both contents, and
there is only background music in each content. It is worth noting
that there is not any narrative element in the spatial content.
Figure 1: A frame of the spatial content
Figure 2: A frame of the emotional content
Our 33-item main questionnaire was developed by
synthesizing previously validated questionnaires of presence and
immersion [34, 16], such as those of Kim & Biocca’s, Gerhard et
al.’s, I Group, Reality Judgment and Presence, Presence, Dinh et
al.’s, Witmer & Singer’s, etc. We named our questionnaire as
“The Spatial and Emotional Immersion Questionnaire” (SEIQ),
which is available in our online repository . We use a 5-point
Likert scale as the answer to the questions. The answer can be
either from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree), or from 1
(not at all) to 5 (extremely), depending on how we formulate the
question. For device-wise differences, we use a between-subjects
design, and for content-wise differences, we use repeated
measures of a within-subjects design, thus this experiment is a
mixed design combining both between-subjects and within-
subjects design methods.
1) Comparing overall immersiveness
We select Question 27: “There were moments during the
virtual environment experience when I felt completely focused on
the task or environment” as the markup question to show if the
participant has, at any moment during the experiment, reached
full immersion. We calculated the arithmetic averages for the
spatial content and the emotional content in Excel, and results
show that the average for the spatial content in the TV group is
3.17, the same content in the tablet group is 3.27; and the average
for the emotional content in the TV group is 3.65, and the same
content in the tablet group is 3.68. This result shows that device-
wise difference between TV and tablet is not significant, but
content-wise, the emotional content is significantly more
immersive than the spatial content across devices.
To reinforce this claim, we further performed a two-way
mixed-design repeated measures analysis of variance (ANOVA)
for the same question in SPSS, using “content” as the within-
subjects independent variable and “device” as the between-
subjects factor independent variable. Results show that content-
wise difference is significant (p=0.012, p<0.05), whereas device-
wise difference is not significant (p=0.787, p>0.05). And for
device x content interaction, the p value is 0.839. Later, as we
proceed further with other items of the questionnaire, we find that
two-way ANOVA yields similar results, i.e., device-wise
difference is not significant between TV and tablet. This can be
explained that the immersive effects of large and small screen
sizes are offset by the viewing distance, i.e. tablet allows for an
intimate viewing distance, whereas for visual comfort, TV
requires the viewers to sit at a certain distance from the screen.
And these offset the psychological impact of screen sizes to
immersion. Previous arguments also support the views in both
camps, for instance, that a larger screen would provide a higher
level of immersion due to the ‘cinematic’ atmosphere that it
provides, or that the smaller screen would force the player to
focus harder on a smaller space and so be much less aware of
their surroundings . Considering the above facts, and for the
sake of simplifying the matter, in later parts of the paper we no
longer distinguish between devices – we only perform analysis on
the content-wise differences here. The nuanced device-wise
differences will be discussed later in another paper.
Other questions that define the general aspects of
immersiveness include: Q1. “In the virtual environment I had the
sense of ‘being there’”; Q3. “When the video ended, I felt like I
came back to the ‘real world’ after a journey”; Q4. “The story
came to me and created a new world for me, and the world
suddenly disappeared when the video ended”; Q5. “During the
story, I NEVER forgot that I was in the middle of an experiment”;
Q6. “During the story, my body was in the room, but my mind
was inside the world created by story”; Q8. “I was involved in
communication and the experimental task to the extent that I lost
track of time”; Q9. “My senses were completely engaged during
the experience”; and Q10. “I was completely captivated by the
virtual world.” For each question, we calculated the arithmetic
averages for the degree of immersiveness of the spatial content
and the emotional content, and we performed ANOVA to show if
the difference is significant. The results are shown in Table 1:
Table 1: Comparison of both contents in terms of overall immersiveness
All data shown in Table 1 consistently reflect the fact that
overall, the emotional content is significantly more immersive
than the spatial content in terms of sense of “being there”, time
perception, and sense of engagement, which is also consistent
with result of the markup question Q27 (Note that Q5 is a
2) Specific components of immersion
Q2 is about realism and graphic fidelity: “In general, the
virtual world appears realistic to me.” Q7 is also about realism,
but more of a subjective feeling: “During the story, the story-
generated world was more real or present for me compared to the
‘real world’”. Q24 is about an even higher level of vividness: “To
what extent what you experienced in the virtual world was
congruent to other experiences in the real world?” Q2 is about
external realism (perceived match to the actual world), Q24 is
about narrative realism (perceived coherence in the story) ,
and Q7 is somewhere in-between. The averages and p values are
computed for each question and shown in Table 2:
Table 2: Comparison of both contents in terms of realism and vividness
The spatial content is an ultra-realistic architectural
visualization of familiar living conditions, whereas the emotional
content is an animated cartoon which is more of a metaphoric
nature. The results suggest that although graphically the spatial
content appears more photo-realistic, the emotional content that
contains a story is much closer to the real-life experience. In other
words, the spatial content is slightly more immersive in terms of
external realism and narrative realism considered separately, yet
comprehensively taken together, the emotional content allows
much greater feeling of realism.
b) “Bodily presence”
Q15: “To what extent did you feel like you ‘went into’ the
virtual world, and you almost forgot about the world outside?”
and Q16: “I feel that I could have reached into the virtual world
and grasped an object” are about “bodily presence”. For Q15, the
average for the spatial content is 1.98, and for the emotional
content is 2.82. ANOVA shows the difference is highly
significant (p<0.0005). For Q16, the average for the spatial
content is 2.07, and for the emotional content is 2.16. ANOVA
shows the difference is not significant (p=0.651, p>0.05). The
above results suggest that emotional content allows the users to
feel more “bodily presence” into the story than the spatial content,
but not necessarily to the extent of feeling more able to interact
with the virtual objects. This is counter-intuitive to our
presumption, and this will be discussed in the Discussions section.
c) Spatial dis-orientation:
Q17 is about spatial disorientation: “To what extent did you
feel disoriented or confused in the Virtual Environment?” The
average for the spatial content is 1.93, and for the emotional
content is 1.53. ANOVA shows the difference is significant
(p=0.012, p<0.05), suggesting that the spatial content does allow
the users to feel more disoriented and require more sensory-
motoric re-adjustment of the users.
d) Emotional aspects:
Q18: “I believe that the virtual world was able to induce
emotions”, Q19: “To what extent did the virtual world make you
feel emotions (anxiety, sadness, happiness, etc.)?”, Q20: “To
what extent did you feel emotionally involved in the virtual
experience?”, Q21: “How exhilarated did you feel after the
experience?” and Q25: “To what extent did you get bored while
experiencing the virtual world?” are about the emotional aspects
of immersion. We’ve computed the average and p value for each
question, which is shown in Table 3:
Table 3: Comparison of both contents in terms of emotional aspects
All these indicate that the emotional content is able to induce
or elicit greater amount of high arousal emotions than the spatial
content. (Note that Q25 is a negative statement). The spatial
content only has a limited or moderate effect on emotion, but the
emotional content does exert a great deal of effect on the
participant’s subjective feelings.
Q22: “To what extent did the experience imply a mental effort
to you?”, Q23: “To what extent did you have to pay a lot of
attention about what was going on in the virtual world?”, Q26:
“To what extent did events occurring outside the virtual
environment distract from your experience in the virtual
environment?” And Q31: “How much did the visual display
quality interfere or distract you from performing assigned tasks
or required activities?” are about attention and immersion. For
Q22 and Q23, ANOVA shows the difference is not significant
(For Q22: p=0.368, p>0.05; For Q23: p=0.903, p>0.05). For Q26
and Q31, ANOVA shows it’s on the verge of achieving statistical
significance (For Q26: p=0.175, p>0.05; For Q31: p=0.066,
p>0.05). The above results suggest spatial content and emotional
content, while immersed in, require similar amount of attentions
and mental effort, yet when people are emotionally immersed,
attentively and mentally they have slightly better ability to ignore
distractions, given the same background conditions.
f) Sensory cues
Q11: “To what extent did you feel bodily sensations in the
virtual world (wind, heat, cold, etc.)?”, Q12: “How much did the
visual aspects of the environment involve you?”, Q13: “How
much did the auditory aspects of the environment involve you?”
and Q28: “To what extent was the information provided through
different senses in the virtual environment (e.g., vision, hearing)
consistent?” are about sensory cues. The averages and p values
are shown in Table 4:
Table 4: Comparison of both contents in terms of sensory cues
The above results suggest that emotional content enables
significantly greater degree of immersion that allows the users to
feel more consistency of the sensory cues.
g) Image motion:
Q29: “How compelling was your sense of objects moving
through space?”, Q30: “How compelling was your sense of
moving around inside the virtual environment?”, Q32: “How
completely were you able to actively survey or search the
environment using vision?” and Q33: “How closely were you able
to examine objects?” are about image motion. The averages and p
values are shown in Table 5:
Table 5: Comparison of both contents in terms of image motion
The above results show that both the spatial content and the
emotional content could enable very great sense of image motion
in the virtual space, which leads to the sense of presence. And
although emotional content scores slightly higher, the difference
is not significant.
3) Other findings:
Generally speaking, both the spatial content and the emotional
content are able to elicit a certain degree of immersion, and the
emotional content is significantly more immersive than the spatial
content. However, there are 9 participants (20% of all participants,
7 male and 2 female) who find the spatial content is, at varying
degrees (from slightly to extremely) more immersive than the
emotional content. By contrast, almost all female participants find
the emotional content very immersive. However, male
participants’ attitudes towards the spatial content are also greatly
polarized – some male participants report that they prefer more
violent scenes than merely peaceful and serene spatial
Another finding is that no matter how we randomize the order
of the content, a fair portion of the participants (25 participants,
56% of all participants) always find the second content more
immersive, be it spatial or emotional, suggesting that immersion
may need time to induce or elicit.
Finally, we find that immersive experience is quite an
idiosyncratic experience, and is strongly associated with the
participant’s demographic conditions and immersive tendencies,
but not entirely dependent on the nature of the task. For instance,
a male participant finds the spatial content significantly more
immersive because he is studying civil engineering as a major;
and a female participant finds the spatial content slightly more
immersive because she is actively looking for a new apartment
lately. And the level of immersion to both contents is strongly
correlated with the participant’s immersive tendencies – People
with low immersive tendencies can be indifferent to both contents,
and those with high immersive tendencies find both contents
highly immersive. IV. DISCUSSIONS
Admittedly, the psychological mechanism of immersion is still
very poorly understood, let alone any attempt to evaluate
immersion in the QoE domain. However, designing media
technologies that could deeply engage and retain users is one of
the primary objectives of researching into Quality of Experience.
Thus, immersion is a key experiential factor in evaluating
multimedia systems and particularly in storytelling. We reiterate
this point at the beginning of the paper because we consider this
cannot be over-emphasized. By studying and distinguishing
between spatial immersion and emotional immersion, we’ve
made the first step of tapping into the psychological processes of
The QoE assessment and modelling of immersive experience
is a fledgling yet promising topic, fledgling because immersive
experience touches upon many of the intangible features of
human experience which are rather difficult to sense, capture,
interpret and/or interact with, let alone its quality assessment and
modelling; promising because immersion is a major
psychological mechanism in media enjoyment which, if properly
unveiled, can lead to significant improvement and innovation in
the value creation of media production and consumption.
From the system perspective, the capability of a technical
system “to deliver an inclusive, extensive, surrounding and vivid
illusion of reality to the senses of a human participant” has been
deﬁned as immersion . The system QoE factors influencing
immersion include : pictorial realism and graphic fidelity,
image motion, screen size, visual cues (spatial and object cues),
sensory effects (wind, vibration, light effects), etc. These have all
been investigated in our study. We have also investigated human
QoE factors such as attention, time perception, emotions, etc. and
contextual factors such as awareness of environmental
distractions, interface fidelity, etc. All these offer new insights to
the QoE assessment and modelling of immersive experiences.
The components and dynamics underlying media enjoyment
(QoE) have been found as a dependent variable of personality
traits, individual differences, mood, content characteristics, etc.
As a result, it has been characterized as a multidimensional
construct conditioned by affective components in its ﬁrst place
. In particular, emotional enjoyment has been found closely
linked to entertainment as a media effect, where media provides a
means to “escape to a fantasy world where emotions can be
experienced” . Thus, emotion is a primary component that
determines the QoE in immersive storytelling. And emotion is
triggered by cognitive primers, thus emotional content containing
a narrative or story has better capability to immerse audience.
Also, “drama” is an important defining element in eliciting
From the individual difference perspective, male participants
seem to be more inclined to applaud the spatial content. This can
be explained by the fact that men are primarily spatial visualizers
, and thus have better spatial intelligence or spatial skills .
And spatial intelligence is a human factor in QoE to evaluate
user’s adaptation to the virtual environment. Our study also
shows that female participants empathize better with the virtual
character than male participants, which is consistent with
previous findings that in general women are more empathetic than
men  and in the virtual environment females empathize with
virtual characters more readily than males , and this leads to
higher level of presence. Length of exposure to the media
environment is also a contextual factor in QoE that determines
degree of immersion, and this can explain why a fair portion of
the participants always find the second content more immersive.
Now we can address or answer the research questions:
Drama or narrative is the primary factor that enables
immersion, and this overshadows other immersive effects such
as photo-realistic graphic fidelity or disorientating or dazzling
spatial effects. Without certain dramaturgical structures in the
storytelling content, it is difficult to elicit high degree of sense
of presence among users, even if it demonstrates significant
levels of other experiential qualities in storytelling, immersion,
Subjective and qualitative method such as questionnaire is a
cost-effective and easily quantifiable method in QoE
assessment and modelling. Adapted to the immersive
storytelling scenario, it’s a viable means of measuring
immersiveness, but in terms of more accurately measuring the
users’ cognitions, emotions and behaviors through neuro-
psycho-physiological data we would say it is not adequate. For
instance, some participants complain that a 5-point Likert scale
is not enough to measure their nuanced degree of
immersiveness. In such cases we would assume that a 9-13
point scale would be more appropriate and accurate. And some
participants report that after watching the second video, they
had a desire to scale up or scale down the answers to the first
video. And this is perhaps a major dilemma of a within-
subjects design using questionnaires.
For spatial immersion, ideally it would be better to use a Head-
Mounted Display (HMD) to allow for much greater degree of
“bodily presence” in the virtual environment. But we settled
with the current experimental design because we wanted to
measure and compare immersiveness under equal experimental
conditions, i.e., using flat 2D screen displays for both contents.
Previous studies have measured and compared egocentric
immersion (HMD-based) and exocentric immersion (screen-
based), and concluded that egocentric immersion is positively
associated with better task performance in a chess game .
Thus, with HMD, the results might be different, and this is
pending further investigation.
Our results show that emotional immersion allows the users to
feel more “bodily presence” into the virtual environment.
Previous studies suggest that film enjoyment is a function of
narrative experience, perceived realism and transportability
. Transportation theory also suggest that presence is a
coherent process of transportation (spatial immersion) and
identification (emotional immersion) in a narrative media
enjoyment . Thus we may conclude (tentatively) that spatial
immersion and emotional immersion are an integral process in
viewing a narrative content, and spatial immersion is an
antecedent process immediately followed by emotional
immersion, i.e. people firstly feel “bodily presence” into the
scene, and then are emotionally empathized and cognitively
identified with character. And this identification process
further reinforces the feeling of transportation. This also
suggests that emotional immersion is a higher level immersion
above spatial immersion, i.e. being spatially immersed does
not necessarily mean one is emotionally immersed, yet
emotional immersion is always on the premise of spatial
immersion. In other words, identification always incorporates
In conclusion, our research provides empirical evidence of
measuring spatial and emotional immersion that are previously
only theoretically or conceptually discussed. Interestingly, the
phenomena of spatial immersion and emotional immersion have
been extensively discussed in previous literature, but they haven’t
been systematically classified and empirically validated as we did
in this paper, which is important for future research in designing
better immersive technologies and experiences. We have proved
the hypothesis that emotional immersion is more immersive than
spatial immersion, tempus esse. We also linked various
components of the measurement to QoE influencing factors, in an
aim to bridge the gap in the QoE assessment and modelling of
immersive experience in storytelling.
The practical implications of our research are multi-fold:
i) In the majority of current VR/AR/MR applications,
tremendous emphases are still placed on enhancing spatial
immersion and spatial experience, whereas the drama or
narrative elements are significantly missing. This to a great
degree hampers the enjoyment of full immersion. Future
directions of these immersive technologies should make
efforts to combine more engaging storytelling techniques with
the existing spatial elements to allow for better immersive
ii) Since emotion is major component in eliciting immersion.
Future design of immersive technologies should benefit from
other cognate areas such as affective computing, intelligent
interaction, affective neuroscience, etc. This cross-fertilization
will bring fruitful progress by complementing and broadening
the existing QoE influencing factors research and in turn
enhancing the experiential qualities of immersive
iii) Emerging visual reality technologies such as JPEG Pleno may
have the capacity to revolutionize our perception towards
spatially immersive virtual environment by playing with
spatial qualities of the image such as depth-of-field, focus,
and observer’s perspective . These would greatly enhance
the effect of spatial immersion, then we might need to re-
evaluate our topic when these technologies become mature
iv) In addition, there is still a lot of space to enhance spatial
immersion by future display technologies, enhanced bodily
interaction technologies, larger Field-of-View (FOV),
enhanced graphic simulation and motion realism technologies,
etc. So, technologies are rapidly advancing. With these
promising future technologies comprehensively enhancing our
spatial perception, it might be still too early to make the
judgment that spatial immersion is less immersive.
v) Since there are meta-cognition and meta-emotion, and
considering that emotional immersion is a higher level
immersion, is there meta-immersion, i.e. immersion
embedded in immersion(s)? This can be an interesting area to
explore in Mixed Reality (MR) when designing more
complex, intricate or elaborate immersive experiences.
In summary, both spatiality and emotion have vast potentials
for immersiveness. The future immersive technologies should try
to harness the powers and exploit the potentials of spatiality and
emotion to produce an alternate reality that stimulates all our
senses. and engages all our attentional resources and perceptual
apparatus, i.e. an “ultra immersion”.
This project has received funding from the European Union’s
Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie
Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement No 643072, Network QoE-Net.
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