World Texts –

Panta Rhei

An interactive VR experiment

Prof. Anja Stöffler

In the 360° virtual reality application “World texts. Part 1 – Panta Rhei”, the Institute for Media Design at the University of Applied Sciences in Mainz uses the visualization option of head-mounted displays. Through mediatization and digitalization in the beginning of the 21st century, the creative possibilities of type and typography are undergoing unexpected additional expansions and experiences.

By bringing together text (image), sound and space, the design and thus also the communication of content is confronted with new challenges. “Welttexte immersiv” sees itself as a field of experimentation and research that incorporates these new technical developments.

With the installation we step out of the “paper and screen” reference frames we are familiar with and use the inner view of VR glasses. Unlike many other such applications, reality is not copied here, but rather a completely new contemplative spatial impression is created, which can become a space for cognition and meditation.

In the example “Panta Rhei” the viewer finds himself in a seemingly weight- and dimensionless typographic space with excerpts from the meditation text of “Jap Ji Sahib”.

Interaction concept

The viewer perceives a tower and tunnel-like text space with universes of sentences that can be changed in their position and arrangement by interacting with controllers. The interaction concept avoids complexity and thus allows access to all age groups. The interaction takes place in real time.

The objective is a direct connection with the text level and subtle support of the meaning levels of the text excerpt.

A total of four levels with different action options are available. Words and lines of text can be moved in different directions, enlarged, repositioned and made readable.

Sentences such as “Thinking, thinking, it will not let us comprehend so much of thinking” give the impression, by turning right or left, that the observer is in a spiral of text and that these thoughts become comprehensible through movement in space. Another special feature is the possibility of passing through the letters/texts and thus the view of their external appearance (penetration of thoughts). Comparable to a “word universe”, selected words can be completed into sentences in a further level.

The inside view of the actor is always visible simultaneously on a projection surface in the exhibition space (outside) and enables outsiders to participate in the experience of actively dealing with the text excerpt.

Audio design

The audio design reacts subtly to any form of interaction with the writing in virtual space and intentionally goes beyond mere background music. The different interaction levels each have their own audio-visual sound aesthetics (sound design, sound frequencies, position of the sounds, etc.) and thus support the textual statements.

The text level is comparable to a back channel and thinking can be literally thought through and experienced – a spatial experiment and experience that simultaneously touches and opens up several senses.


Institute for Media Design, University of Applied Sciences Mainz

Artistic Direction: Anja Stöffler

Thanks to Cecilia Wilhelm

Production: Manfred Liedtke

Storyboard: Mikhail Eduardovic

Svyatskiy3d-Animation: Igor Posavec, Ferdinand Lotz, Lukas Kölz, Christian Kandler

Programming: Robin Huse, Ferdinand Lotz

Audio Design: Ute Engelhardt

Gutenberg-Museum, Mainz: Medienausstellung ‚Akademos. A Place for Pootes and Philosophers‘: November 11th 2016 until March 31st 2017
Gutenberg University and University of Applied Sciences Mainz: Digital Days 2017
Wissenschaftsmarkt Mainz, Exhibition Institute for Media Design, 2017