Virtual Super Human Powers

Anatomy of Experience
Howard Rose

Virtual Reality is an immersive full-body, sensory experience that taps into every physical and mental level of human experience. After years spent to unpack and understand how VR works, designing virtual worlds, and explaining VR to lots of people, I boiled it all down to a simple model of the 5 Virtual Super Human Powers . I find it helpful to revisit the model l when I’m designing virtual experiences, to remind myself that the more levels I can hit, the better for my users and for the impact I want to deliver. Hope you find it useful.


XR channels into the brain and body


  • Immersion:  Immersion is the bottom line required for all the other layers of goodness. Once we can deliver the sensation of being transported physically inside a virtual space and the stuff there is “real” to us, then all the other channels of possibility open up. Think of Immersion as the domain of the unconscious mind – where everything starts.
  • Interaction: Once immersed in a virtual world, the first question people typically ask is “what can I do here?” People want to do things, and XR technology invites and excites our deep drive to explore and control the world around us.  Plus doing stuff is just way more fun that passively watching other people do stuff.
  • Psychophysical: A big difference between VR and watching anything on a screen is the physical feeling we get of motion, architectural and personal space, heights, scale… Tap into the psychophysical channel to increase presence, shift attention, add cognitive load, alter the comfort zone. A note of care is also called for here, as this channel is also the birthplace of motion sickness and other harms we shouldn’t evoke.
  • Cognition: This is the domain of the conscious mind, full of reasoning, learning, planning, problem solving… Remember too that our brains are not all in our heads – lots of intelligence and stories can be tapped into via the body, the hands, the feet.
  • Emotion: VR cuts straight to our emotional center – lizard brain. In a virtual world we become like a fish in water, reacting to the changes around us and swimming ahead no longer paying attention to the water we swim in. Because emotions (like empathy, joy, competitiveness…) are powerful and deeply rooted, they play a big role in shaping our beliefs and thoughts.

Make your message more powerful and memorable by hitting as many channels as possible. Peel the onion. Think through your solution at each level, then go back and iterate to go deeper and tie the levels together. The deeper you go the better experience you can deliver and the more exciting discoveries you will uncover.

© 2021 Howard Rose, all rights reserved