Sensory Immersive

Explore participatory experiences that go beyond the exploration of different spaces. These works take audiences through different senses including taste, smell, touch and sound.

AIRED: May 19, 2021 | 0:26:47




Woman: I think people these days are drawn more and more

to sensory experiences

because we do spend so much time looking at computer screens,

staring at our phone, being sort of insular in a way.

And these sensory experiences

are a way to sort of get back into our bodies

and also inspire conversation.



Lauw: This kind of immersive data that involves the senses

is not really about the story or the fact.

It's about affecting people on a physiological level,

that when you feel this tingly sensation,

you are physically changed in some way.


Pridgen: It tricks your senses. It tricks your state of mind.

It re-establishes your perception, your perspective.

Really feels like I'm really changing my sense of who I am.





Hello, everybody, and welcome to luxury escapism,

the Oddly Satisfying Spa.


Pridgen: Luxury escapism is a multisensory environment

where we invite intimate groups of guests

down for two-hour sessions

to explore 10 or more relaxation spaces.

And each one of those kind of uses either immersive technology

or kind of imaginative immersive art

to promote relaxation and kind of inspire creativity.


Lobser: We both came at the spa

from different but similar angles --

just basically the idea that there aren't a lot of spaces,

especially in New York, to go be with other people

and a very chill space where you can still interact with them

and sort of play and explore your senses

and not be drunk and not be in a space that's loud.

But we wanted to do it with the things that we're good at,

which is Tyler is very good at creating spaces for people,

and I know how to drive technology.


Pridgen: The idea behind it would be that technology,

especially content that's meditative or relaxation driven,

can actually be an antidote to negative content

and technology overload and hyperconnectivity.


ASMR, immersive technology,

virtual reality, binaural beats --

The whole thing comes together to create this magical wellness,

kind of trippy experience.


Today we've created for you a wonderful selection

of sensory installations and interactions

that will delight and satisfy you

if you let them.

Lobser: For me, I find VR to be an excellent space

to just go in and relax and unwind

and sort of separate yourself from your body

and from the day and from whatever place that you're in.

And I think it's just an amazing medium

for just, like, chill exploration.


The first experience that I made that was designed

to be sort of hypnotic uses this, like, deep tunnel

and really amplifies it with light

that sort of goes off into the distance and comes close

and then goes off into the distance and comes close.

And it starts off very slow, and it starts to speed up.

So it's like you have this sense of anticipation, too,

which is another thing that excites me a lot about VR

is that you can really play with people's proprioception

and sort of like their sense of anticipation

in ways that you can't do with flat media.

And it's almost like you can breathe

a sigh of relief at the end 'cause it's like

you've gone through this, like, really tough space

of, like, everything's kind of strobing

and a little bit confusing.

And then it's back to just relaxing and, like, dark again.


Pridgen: The sonic sauna is a small room

that's been fully soundproofed.

The lights go completely pitch black,

and a 17-minute organic ASMR sound-bath experience begins.


The sonic sauna uses specialized audio

in this new kind of form of sound design

that we're trying to champion called organic ASMR,

and it's a very visceral experience

that kind of takes people on this mental,

almost dreamlike journey.



The rainbow therapy waterbed,

it's a vibro-acoustic strobing waterbed experience

that people report feeling a little bit out of body.

They see visual patterns because of the strobe lights.

And it's extremely popular and very memorable

and not quite like anything else that exists,

because David invented it.


Lobser: I cannot take full credit

for the development of the waterbed conceptually.

I have over the years been playing around

with different modalities for sober-consciousness alteration.

I wound up in Bali, and I went to a place

called the Temple of Chai, and there is a group there.

They bought a commercially available strobe light

that's designed for therapy

and they connected it to vibro-acoustic beds.

And they do a live performance

with a gong and all kinds of other things.

That sort of pushed me over the edge of, like, "Okay.

I need to experiment in this space.

I need to do my own version of this."


It's like sort of a healing modality,

but it's also an art medium,

just the idea that you can compose audio

specifically designed to just like tune

people's cellular structures with just acoustics

and then tune people's brain waves with these strobe lights

and then do the same thing with binaural beats,

and just combining them all together,

it sort of create something that's like the opposite

of a sensory-deprivation tank.

I kind of think of it as like a sensory-activation tank,

where it's just, like, hitting all your senses

at the same time.


Pridgen: Celestial flow is a virtual-reality

sandbox tool where you use your hands

and you gesture in front of your face

to manipulate about a million particles

that are very colorful.

And each different gesture that you use

will change the way that you interact with those particles.


In virtual reality, people feel very magical and powerful.

They often get out of it and say,

"Hey, it feels like I was in Harry Potter land,"

or something like that.



Lobser: A lot of VR experiences,

the most popular ones at arcades,

are actually zombie shooters

and just like the high-intensity,

like, fast kinds of experiences.

And there hasn't been as much of a space for relaxing VR.

But I think that's starting to change

and people are starting to realize

that there are even medical --

like, real, measurable therapeutic benefits

to, like, just VR almost as itself as a medium.

So it's almost like whatever work I've been doing in VR

is just to sort of amplify the effects

that I find kind of naturally lend themselves to VR

as a medium.


Pridgen: I've always been very interested

in immersive theater spaces, anything immersive,

but I would say the one most important aspect

that we're trying to basically have ownership over

is immersive technology

and the way that that can be used and the proper way.


We hope that tonight has allowed you the space

to take a moment to remind yourself that relaxation

and mindful sensory stimulation are incredibly important

in maintaining a calm and creative mind.

Work to balance your digital and physical life.

And remember, whenever you need us,

our spa is here for you.

I've seen so many different immersive experiences.

I recently did Whisperlodge, which blew my mind.

I was amazed.

I thought it was absolutely incredible.

I am a very strong ASMR responder, obviously.

I was just so impressed by the production that they put on

and how strong the experience was for me.

I mean, I was completely passed out, wiped out,


Let's just say I was tingling.


[ Whispering ] The scratch of my razor against my skin.

[ Scraping ]

Lauw: Whisperlodge is a 90-minute immersive performance

where we take you through an ASMR spa.

ASMR stands for "autonomous sensory meridian response,"

and it's a made-up term that describes a pleasurable,

tingling sensation that some people feel

when they watch whispering videos online

or when they just, like, experience sensory things

in their everyday life.


ASMR becomes more and more popular.

More people are studying it.

Last year, there was an important study

that came out from the U.K.

where they showed that people who have ASMR,

they experienced a lowered heart rate

when they were watching ASMR content.

There was also, like, an increase

in their skin conductivity.

ASMR does have this, like, relaxing property

that's very similar to meditation.


[ Whispering ] So, when I was little,

I used to paint my older brother's back.

Lauw: We came up with the idea for Whisperlodge

because I have ASMR

and I'm also a crazy immersive-data fan.

And Whisperlodge's co-creator, Andrew Hoepfner,

he is, like, an immersive creator

who accidentally made a show where a lot of people had ASMR.

So we both came together and were super interested

in combining both the ASMR and immersive-data worlds.

[ Inhales, exhales deeply ]

When I say Whisperlodge is like a spa experience,

I mean it's kind of like there's no overarching narrative.

You kind of go to a spa, you do your nails, you soak in the tub,

and you kind of go to all these individual treatment rooms.

And we try to replicate that at Whisperlodge.

So you come in as a group intro.

There's a group outro at the end,

but in between, you're traveling from room to room

visiting our guides, who all specialized in one type of ASMR.



There's also another scene that's very popular

that we call the boudoir,

and it's just a scene where we brush your face

and hands with makeup brushes and we spray rosewater on you.

And it's all about, like, just enjoying pleasure.



Not everyone has ASMR intrinsically,

but I do think you can learn to appreciate it.

For our show in particular, in the beginning,

our intention was that we want to do the triggers.

We want to, like, make you have the tingles.

And that was how we determine whether we were successful,

versus now, like four years on,

I think our success metrics is, like, do you feel cared for.

Did you feel like you were relaxed?

Because a lot of people who come through,

even if they don't have ASMR,

what they receive is one-on-one attention from someone.

And just this person who's, like, in service to you,

caring for you, that is universally enjoyable.


Usually when we perform, we can immediately see the impact

that we're making.

The first one-on-one,

people are usually, like, still a bit nervous.

They kind of sit still and they let you do your thing.

The second one-on-one, you see them more at ease.

They come in and they're like, "Yeah. Do it."

And then the third one, they're just like,

"Give it to me!"

They are just very relaxed.

For people who have ASMR,

sometimes we see them, like, shudder or shiver

or they, like, make sounds,

and then we feel really happy when we see that, of course.


[ Whispering ] Good morning.

Last night, I didn't set my alarm.

I slept as much as I needed.

Lauw: For me, I think Whisperlodge is

in that boundary between art and wellness.

I see it primarily as a performance,

'cause that's where we started from.

We were, like, thinking of this

as an immersive theater performance to begin with.

And then, as we performed, we started to see

the real impact that we have on people.

They actually derive something out of it.

[ Whispering ] I head to the bathroom and turn on the faucet.

[ Lid clicks ]

Water makes contact with my hands.


Lauw: Because our show is entirely whisper for 90 minutes,

after being in such a quiet environment,

your hearing levels just automatically, like, adjust.

It becomes hypersensitive.

And when we put you out into the world,

you feel everything louder and brighter.

And that's a physiological change that you cannot deny.

[ Click ]

[ Whispering ] My toothbrush turns paste into foam.

[ Bristles scraping ]

Lauw: This is art for me.

I always tell people I want to make art

where you are not -- you cannot deny that the art is happening.


People are no longer, like, attentive enough

to stand in front of a painting

and just intellectualize and think about it.


When we touch you in Whisperlodge

and we hold your hand, there's no way you cannot feel that.

You don't have to go through your brain.

Your body just reacts to it.



The experience is pretty much a multisensorial experience

based on perception of taste,

how augmented reality can change the way

how we perceive food and the way how we experience food.


Mazumdar: The idea we're working on is immersive gastronomy.

The question we were asking was how do we create an experience

that's more immersive?

What's next?

How does emerging technology play a role in our industry?

And with that, we embarked on this new journey

where the idea becomes your food and your experience

is no longer about just what you're tasting,

but everything else and your surroundings

and how it's combining into one cohesive experience.


Casalegno: I figured out that taste is the kind of sensory

that in VR is not very much explored yet.

Of course, VR is very much about the eyes,

about hearing, about sound and music.

But there's not much other things

that went into how we can combine those with food.


Mazumdar: What people experience as they are thrust

into this completely unknown world --

and it could be as if you're floating on the sky

or you're underwater or you're on a mountaintop.

And each of those moments,

you're seeing all these different objects around you.

What if you could go ahead,

pick up one of those objects, and eat them?



Casalegno: The entire piece is inspired by an actual book.

It's inspired by "The Futurist Cookbook."

It's an Italian book written in 1932

where the Italian futurists sort of start thinking about food

in terms of colors and shapes.

Through the experience, you are in different worlds,

different scenes,

and every scene that you get to explore

are sort of inspired by one of the stories of this book.


The futurists lived about 100 years ago,

and it was around that time

they were asking all sorts of questions

that were considered radical and crazy for their times.

But now, with the advent of technology,

we realize those crazy questions can actually become reality

and we can create these worlds out of it.


Casalegno: You literally eat abstract shapes,

and so the question is like, how that tastes like, right?

And how vision, of course,

influences what you actually taste.


The interception of tastes is not about only the taste buds,

but it comes from nose and eyes, of course, right?

There's this famous saying that we eat with our eyes first.

So how that works when you are actually in

a completely immersive environment

that has no sort of relationship whatsoever

with what you're actually used to eating.

Mazumdar: The experience started to be really based on emotions.

So when we started designing the menu,

it would be between Chef, Mattia --

All of us would sit in a room and discuss,

"Well, it's springtime,"

and Mattia is like, "Well, I see olives."

Chef is like, "I'm Indian. I don't see olives.

I see mangoes."

And it's funny because how each of our own interpretation,

our own authenticity

lends itself to a certain type of emotions.


Casalegno: So the way that I worked with the chef,

we started from the scenes.

So he spent his time into VR,

he saw every scene, and then he got inspired by that.

And he created a sort of menu where you could sort of flavor

and taste one bite of things from each of these scenes.

And then after that,

I started to create the visual objects,

the visual representation of what you eat.


What is really interesting for me, actually,

is that in this very experience,

it's like to eat for the first time,

because we don't have any sort of preconceived idea

of how the food will be like

and how it actually tastes like.

Your brain is way more open in a way.

And it's really amazing to see how, you know,

the comments of people are always similar.

They were really amazed when they discovered

that actually we are not so much used

to actually focus on taste anymore, right?

We are so much used to take photos when we eat

or Instagram and just share.

So we sort of lost the moment

where we actually are eating something

and we sort to focus our efforts on taste.


Mazumdar: The very last bite is a dish called falooda.

It's kind of like -- Imagine a bubble tea,

but not as soupy, not as much milk.

It can technically be that way.

But we give a version that's a little bit on the drier side.

And we actually had that on our restaurant menu.

It was one of the worst-selling appetizers ever

until we removed it.

That dish is the most talked- about dish in the VR world.

And it's not only that people

are just eating it because they have to.

They're walking away,

being blown away by that same exact dish

that has a direct cultural context.

Yet because they're experiencing that in VR,

it's as if it's a whole new world.


Casalegno: I think that as an artist these days,

there's no point to creating more stuff.

We have a lot of objects around us.

We have a lot of things in this world.

I think a critical approach to art now

is really to start thinking about the experience

of art itself.

We really need more and more spaces for connections

and to enlarge and to start to increase our awareness

of ourself, of the world.

My goal is to create moments and situations for my public

to get in touch more with their own feelings, probably,

but also be more responsible human beings, probably,

and more aware.


Mazumdar: In this case, you're not focused and walking into

this dining experience with preconceived notions.

I think what ends up happening is whenever we walk in,

we're like, "This is Italian food."

"This is Thai food. I'm gonna order a green curry."

"This is Indian food. I want X."

All of a sudden, what if you didn't know

what the cuisine was?

I think for far too long we've been categorizing food

based on geography.

I think finally we emerge on a new world

where we get to categorize food based on flavors and textures.

So when we do that, all of that stigma,

the preconceived notions, they all go away,

and it becomes just about flavors,

And all of a sudden it's magical.


I think this is a new way to tell stories,

and it's not to take away anything

from the restaurant industry, but it is to further reinforce,

further immerse a guest into sharing those stories

that we couldn't tell in this format before.



Lauw: Immersive data is going where it's no longer so much

about, like, the story and the set and the drama.

It's about affecting you on a bodily level.


Pridgen: I think it's all kind of this tight-knit world,

different types of museums,

a type of museum that feels really, really immersive

and not just like, white-wall, gallery, elitist,

like you're here to see art.

It's more like you're here to kind of shift your perspective,

to let this affect you and change your outlook.


Casalegno: I've seen over and over again through my arts

and through my pieces,

there is this very, very deep need for human connection.

A lot of thought that I put in my art

is how to bring people in certain situations

so that they are more aware of how they feel,

they're more aware of their own bodies,

more aware of their own selves,

more aware of how we all connect to each other in this world.







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