Immersion Domes: Next-Generation Arts and Entertainment Venues

Immersion Domes: Next-Generation Arts and Entertainment Venues

Edward Lantz (Vortex Immersion Media, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2433-6.ch016


Large-scale immersion domes are specialized embodiments of spatial augmented reality allowing large groups to be immersed in real-time animated or cinematic virtual worlds with strong sense-of-presence. Also called fulldome theaters, these spaces currently serve as giant screen cinemas, planetariums, themed entertainment attractions, and immersive classrooms. This chapter presents case studies for emerging applications of digital domes, reviews dome theater design basics, and suggests that these venues are on track to become mainstream arts and entertainment centers delivering global impact at scale. Standard venue designs will be necessary to realize the full potential of an immersive media arts and entertainment distribution network. This chapter provides rationale for standardization of immersion domes for multi-use events spaces, immersive cinemas, and live performing arts theaters.
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Immersion domes typically map 360 visuals onto spherical, hemispheric, or ovoid screens to deliver visual experiences similar to VR headsets but without the need for glasses or goggles (Lantz, 1997). It’s like putting a giant VR headset on a large group of people. The resulting wide field-of-view imagery can trigger brain states not usually accessible via film or other digital media such as sense-of-motion (vection), presence, scale, awe, and have been shown to communicate concepts better, create a greater interest in learning, and are more effective than a movie screen or television at conveying certain scientific concepts (Lantz, 2011).

Digital domes can provide a greater instantaneous visual field-of-view than consumer VR headsets, nearly encompassing the viewer’s entire peripheral vision. Peripheral vision is associated with vection, spatial learning, and navigation skills (Yamamoto & Philbeck, 2013). Because the audience is free to use head motion to observe immersive scenes without the need for head tracking, higher frame rates are not strictly required. Anecdotal experience with audiences indicates that VR experiences presented in digital domes are preferred by many who otherwise feel confined, experience vertigo, or have other difficulties with VR headsets.

The first digital domes were pioneered for military vehicle simulation and training, but it is the planetariums that first embraced video projection in domes for public exhibitions. At last count over 1,665 digital domes—mostly planetariums, science centers, giant screen theaters and portable domes—are documented worldwide, with nearly half in the U.S. (Petersen, 2019a). And over 335 titles have been produced for this market ranging from astronomy and space science, earth science, and more (Petersen 2019b).

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