While cinema offers an optical illusion of movement, Virtual Reality offers a new generation of illusion - a powerful sense of being there within a scene. By offering novel forms of witnessing enabled by 360 degree perspectives, and new interactions of sensory engagement with media which reflects our shared world, virtual reality may have significant potential to inform public debate.

Funded by the UK EPSRC, Virtual Realities - Immersive Documentary Encounters is a collaborative research project that seeks to examine the production and user experience of non-fiction virtual reality content. Through a process of investigation, dialogue, and shared findings, researchers from human-computer interaction, psychology and documentary studies will work alongside internationally recognised creative industry collaborators to support the development of this new production sector, keeping the interests of audience and subjects to the fore.

Leading international content producers will share their approaches to storytelling in this new 360 medium. The project will document where non-fiction VR production has come from, where the current state of the art lies and how technology and creative form are developing. It will evaluate how non-fiction VR content is experienced across multiple platforms, comparing these with 2D and 3D experiences delivered without headsets.

The project will investigate engagement, attention, understanding and emotional reaction to immersive non-fiction media content with carefully selected audience groups - who we will follow from their first encounter with VR.

Project partners

Research Team

Kirsten Cater / Principal Investigator

Dr Kirsten Cater is a Reader in Computer Science at the University of Bristol, specialising in Human Computer Interaction and Tangible User Interfaces.

Mandy Rose / Co-Investigator

Mandy Rose is Director of the Digital Cultures Research Centre, UWE Bristol and Co-Director of i-Docs.

@CollabDocs  Homepage
Danaƫ Stanton Fraser / Co-Investigator

Danaƫ is a Professor in Psychology at the University of Bath and Director of the CREATE Lab.

Chris Bevan / Research Associate

Dr Chris Bevan is a Research Associate in Computer Science at the University of Bristol, specialising in Human Computer Interaction and human-centred design.

David Green / Research Associate

Dr. David Green is a research associate at the UWE Digital Cultures Research Centre.

@cinehacker  Homepage
Harry Farmer / Research Associate

Dr. Harry Farmer is a Research Associate at the University of Bath CREATE lab.

Helen Brown / PhD Researcher

Helen Brown is a psychology PhD student at the University of Bath. Her research is exploring emotional and physiological responses to virtual reality encounters.

Verity Mcintosh / Producer

Verity McIntosh is Managing Producer at Watershed's Pervasive Media Studio and is a co-founding member of Bristol VR Lab.

@veritymcintosh  Homepage

Project News

3 wks ago

Non-Fiction Documentary VR: an Interactive Mediography

Non-Fiction Documentary VR: A Mediography is an interactive history of non-fiction documentary VR content created by project members Chris Bevan and Dave Green.


The current evolution of the Mediography provides analytics for 120+ non-fiction documentary VR pieces, including their source, duration, production, direction and theme.

Through an interactive timeline, the Mediography shows how non-fiction documentary VR is developing as a medium, identifying who the leading directors of this new content form are, who they work with, and where they are presenting their work.

The Mediography is currently under active development, and will continue to grow in scope and functionality as the project progresses. Please do send drop us a line at hello@vrdocumentaryencounters.co.uk with any comments or feedback.

Link: Non-Fiction Documentary VR: A Mediography.

1 mo ago

Project Workshop

Our first project workshop What do we need to know? will be held on Friday 19th January at the Watershed Cinema, Bristol.

What do we need to know? is the first of four workshops to be held over the course of the project, providing a framework through which partners and stakeholders can co-design the research.

The workshop will introduce the project and stage a dialogue about what immersive non-fiction VR content experiences mean to audiences. We will be sharing our objectives, research questions and initial findings, including an emergent mapping of the field to date, and workshopping areas for investigation. The findings of the workshop will inform the audience study and commissioning of three new pieces of VR work.

Over 50 delegates have signed up for the workshop - a mix of creative industry and academics - ensuring we have a balanced discussion from a range of voices, backgrounds and interests.

Guest speakers

We are delighted to announce four guest speakers for the workshop:

Dan Archer, Empathetic Media, New York USA

Dan Archer is a thought leader in the VR/AR/interactive storytelling space and founded Empathetic Media in 2015. He is a 2016 fellow at the Tow Center at Columbia University and was a Reynolds Journalism Institute Fellow (University of Missouri, 2014) and a Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford University (2011).

Jane Gauntlett, Pervasive Media Studio, Bristol UK

Jane Gauntlett is a writer for film and theatre. In 2011, Jane founded the internationally recognised empathy project In My Shoes. In My Shoes is an ever-expanding collection of first-person documentary style interactive performances, which guide participants through the beautiful, the challenging, the mundane and the surreal aspects of being human.

Kate Nash, University of Leeds

Dr Kate Nash is Associate Professor of Media and Communication in the School of Media and Communication at the University of Leeds. Her research focuses on the intersections between documentary culture and emerging media platforms and practices.

Chris Anderson University of Leeds

Chris Anderson is Professor of Media and Communication at the University of Leeds. Chris studies journalism, politics, and how the production of public knowledge is being transformed in the digital age.