denise-quesnelOne of the unique affordances of virtual reality is it’s power to convey the vastness of scale, which can invoke feelings of awe. Denise Quesnel is a graduate student at Simon Frasier University’s iSpace Lab, and she has been studying the process of invoking awe by using Google Earth VR. She was inspired by Frank White’s work on The Overview Effect, which documented the worldview transformations of many astronauts after they observed the vastness of the Earth from the perspective of space.

Quesnel wants to better understand of the overview effect phenomenon, and whether or not it’s possible to use immersive VR to induce it. Anecdotally, I think that it’s certainly possible as I reported my own experience of having a virtual overview effect in my interview with Google Earth VR engineers. She won the best 3DUI poster award at the IEEE VR conference for her study “Awestruck: Natural Interaction with Virtual Reality on Eliciting Awe.

I had a chance to catch up with Quesnel at the IEEE VR conference in March where she shared her research into awe, how it can be quantified by verbal expressions, chills, or goose bumps, and how she sees awe as a catalyst for the transformative potential of virtual reality.


Here’s a short video summarizing Quesnel’s research into using Google Earth VR to study the induction of awe.

Here’s Quesnel’s poster on Awe

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