The sentiment of a virtual rock concert

Virtual Real. 2023;27(2):651-675. doi: 10.1007/s10055-022-00685-9. Epub 2022 Aug 23.


We created a virtual reality version of a 1983 performance by Dire Straits, this being a highly complex scenario consisting of both the virtual band performance and the appearance and behaviour of the virtual audience surrounding the participants. Our goal was to understand the responses of participants, and to learn how this type of scenario might be improved for later reconstructions of other concerts. To understand the responses of participants we carried out two studies which used sentiment analysis of texts written by the participants. Study 1 (n = 25) (Beacco et al. in IEEE Virtual Reality: 538-545, 2021) had the unexpected finding that negative sentiment was caused by the virtual audience, where e.g. some participants were fearful of being harassed by audience members. In Study 2 (n = 26) notwithstanding some changes, the audience again led to negative sentiment-e.g. a feeling of being stared at. For Study 2 we compared sentiment with questionnaire scores, finding that the illusion of being at the concert was associated with positive sentiment for males but negative for females. Overall, we found sentiment was dominated by responses to the audience rather than the band. Participants had been placed in an unusual situation, being alone at a concert, surrounded by strangers, who seemed to pose a social threat for some of them. We relate our findings to the concept of Plausibility, the illusion that events and situations in the VR are really happening. The results indicate high Plausibility, since the negative sentiment, for example in response to being started at, only makes sense if the events are experienced as actually happening. We conclude with the need for co-design of VR scenarios, and the use of sentiment analysis in this process, rather than sole reliance on concepts proposed by researchers, typically expressed through questionnaires, which may not reflect the experiences of participants.

Supplementary information: The online version contains supplementary material available at 10.1007/s10055-022-00685-9.

Keywords: Concert; Evaluation; Performance; Plausibility; Presence; Sentiment analysis; Virtual reality.