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Presenting theatrical performances in virtual reality (VR) has been an active area of research since the early 2000's. VR provides a unique form of storytelling, which is made possible through the use of physically and digitally distributed 3D worlds.

We describe a methodology for determining audience engagement in a virtual theatre performance. We use a combination of galvanic skin response (GSR) data, self-reported positive and negative affect schedule (PANAS), post-viewing reflection, and a think aloud method to assess user reaction to the virtual reality experience.

In this study, we combine the implicit physiological data from GSR with explicit user feedback to produce a holistic metric for assessing immersion. Although the study evaluated a particular artistic work, the methodology of the study provides a foundation for conducting similar research. The combination of PANAS, self reflection, and the think aloud in conjunction with GSR data constitutes a novel approach in the study of live performance in virtual reality. The approach is also extendable to include other implicit measures such as pulse rate, blood pressure, or eye tracking.

Our case study compares the experience of viewing the performance on a computer monitor to viewing with a head mounted display. Results showed statistically significant differences based on viewing platform in the PANAS self-report metric, as well as GSR measurements. Feedback obtained via the think aloud and reflection analysis also emphasized qualitative differences between the two viewing scenarios.