What is the immersive potential of virtual reality? With the given technology, is it possible to induce visceral, bodily responses from a virtual reality experience? We needed to create something that showed potential clients, and ourselves, what VR could do. So we created The Ledge.
The Ledge gives the viewer the experience of being sent up the side of a very tall building on a painting platform by a slightly devious billboard painter who offers to give you "the best view of the city." The trip that ensues is virtually guaranteed to induce the sensation of vertigo that is only felt atop a tall structure in real life. (This is completely distinct from sim-sickness, which this experience does not induce.)
We utilized stereoscopic video capture to embed our live actor in the computer generated experience, creating the sensation that he is talking directly to the viewers as he prepares them for their ascent.
Originally designed as a proof of concept for a corporate setting, The Ledge has come to be known as a thrill ride due to its ability to make the viewer feel like they are in danger of falling off of a real building, even though they are standing securely on the ground.
Thousands of people have experienced The Ledge, and a minority of users stay calm. This experience has garnered a reputation of its own, and is unique in its power even apart from other VR heights related experiences. As the billboard painter uses naturalistic humor to coax them along, viewers typically get sweaty palms, and need a steady arm of a friend or docent to help them ultimately take a step off of the platform, 500 feet up, after hearing "You know this isn't real, right? Since it's virtual, let's have some fun and step off the platform". That is the point at which most people have a crisis of thought, and typically try to take off the headset. A fight-or-flight response is the culprit—the body says no, and the mind says "wait a minute, I'm just in virtual reality!"