No. 39: Immersive At Sundance + USA TODAY’s Strategy

By on February 5, 2021


Immersive at Sundance. David Graver recaps the best offerings at the first-ever virtual Sundance Festival, including virtual reality experiences such as Strawberry Mansion‘s immersive party, New Frontier’s multi-room events and an interactive WebXR portal inspired by Octavia Butler.

  • Speaking of New Frontier. The virtual Sundance expanded the reach of VR projects that otherwise might not have found an audience beyond those who could attend an in-person festival. Here’s a look at New Frontier’s virtual environment and the works featured.
  • Digging further. Read also about Katey Rich’s journey through multiple Sundance parties: “The surprise for me wasn’t that these virtual parties were happening—you can’t know unless you try, right?—but that they actually did feel (sort of) like parties.”

COVID-19 vaccine explainer. mRNA vaccines tap into our body’s genetic process to produce a protein that triggers an immune response, building up antibodies to block future infection. USA TODAY created an AR journey to illustrate how this new technology works in the body.

From games to graphic novel formats. In 2020, USA TODAY’s AR stories had 1.3 million total views (up 288%) and an average engagement time of 125 seconds. Ray Soto, the Director of Emerging Tech, offered a look into the network’s strategy to explore innovative storytelling and engage their audience in meaningful ways.

Inspiring communities. Okayplayer’s Robyn Mowatt highlighted six Black-owned platforms that are building digital communities around music, fashion, mentorship and more. “Since tech is often seen as a white, male industry, it was important for us to give each of these innovators the space to share what makes their platforms worthwhile in their own words.”

Museum perspectives. While museums saw much fewer visitors in 2020, they were popular in video games. Curators from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, The Henry Ford Museum and the Wyoming State Museum react to and offer feedback on the experience design. “We almost never let visitors jump on the wing.”

Industry trends. Everything Immersive’s annual report on the immersive entertainment industry captures the growing and varied collection of experiential works. The report calls for industry-wide standardized categories of experiences based on factors such as level of interaction and age-appropriateness, and offers insight for creators, journalists and investors looking to understanding potential in the space. “As the buzz word wears off, true ‘immersive’ works begin to stand out.”

We always welcome your comments, links and other inputs to future issues. Send tips to We’re taking a break in January, look for the next edition of this newsletter on March 5.

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