Sensory Overload….Can an Interactive Exhibit Be Too Interactive?
One of the potential risks of a truly interactive exhibit is sensory overload, resulting in your goals not being realized. Sensory overload refers to your body’s senses being over-stimulated, and while it is often associated with busy, crowded places, it can also pertain to how your senses are completely enveloped in an immersive experience.
Creating a display where the floors, walls and ceiling produce vivid images and sounds will certainly take visitors out of their current reality and leave their mouths hanging open in amazement…but every situation is different.
The Risk of “Wow” Without Considering Goals
If you plan and create an interactive exhibit and make every conceivable effort to “Wow” your users without thinking of what you want to accomplish with the display, you may risk overloading their senses and failing in your overall goals. The desire to bombard their senses with moving images, words, logos and sounds is understandable, but there is a limit if you have a business or marketing goal attached to the display.
If your only goal is to keep them in “Wow” mode for as long as possible after they leave, then by all means reach for the sky and envelop every sense in the most dynamic way possible. However, if they are supposed to take a specific action or your interactive display is helping to inform or guide, as with an interactive wayfinder, then too much may distract from that goal.
Creation with Your Users in Mind
You should know the personality type that will be using your interactive / immersive display, which means you should also know how much is just enough. The level of sensory stimulation required to reach your goals with museum visitors will be different from the level needed for potential charity donors, which will be different from the level needed for children at a kid’s entertainment center.
Finding the Perfect Balance
The term “too immersive” will only apply if there are other goals that aren’t being met because of the level of immersion in your display. The key is to find just the right balance to “Wow” your users and accomplish the goals you’ve set for your organization. Sometimes, you may have to tweak the content a little if your users aren’t taking the anticipated action, but if you keep your eyes on your goals throughout the process, you should have an engaging, exciting immersive experience that guides users precisely where you want them to go.