NEWS14 March 2018

Virtual reality opening up new world of opportunity for researchers

Impact Impact 2018 Innovations Leisure & Arts Mobile News Telecoms Trends UK

UK – Virtual reality (VR) is delivering not just immersive experiences for video gamers, but also proving to be an effective research tool that respondents love using.

Virtual reality crop

The Royal Shakespeare Company and O2 have both trialled virtual reality consumer research, and have gained not just useful insights into their offering, but also confirmation that VR is a viable, useful and enjoyable tool for people to use.

Speaking on day two of the MRS annual conference, Impact 2018, Becky Loftus, head of audience insight at the RSC, explained a project to understand how audience experience of Titus Andronicus differed according to whether people watched in a theatre, or saw a broadcast in a cinema, or saw the play via a VR headset. Heart rates were tracked via a wrist device, and interviews done with participants afterwards.

Pippa Bailey, head of innovation at Ipsos MORI, which worked on the project, said 91% of the VR group felt there were moments when they felt they were actually in the theatre, compared to just 64% of the cinema group.

People’s enjoyment of the experience, and their willingness to wear a headset for a performance of more than three hours, signalled big possibilities.

“It showed the potential virtual reality has for use within research – its uncanny ability to replicate real experiences, and respondents’ tolerance for being in VR, opens up an entirely new world for us as researchers,” said Dr Alastair Goode, cognitive scientist at Gorilla in the Room, which worked on both the RSC and O2 projects.

“With VR we can literally get responses from any respondent in any situation.”

O2 used VR to test different versions of a promotional stand in stores featuring its connected home products. Ian Bramley of Populus, which worked with O2, said the results were highly encouraging. The natural way that respondents could look around a store had led to higher spontaneous recall of the O2 Home display than among a control group watching a linear video.

When asked later about their enjoyment of the VR experience, 88% said they would be interested in doing VR surveys in future, and 75% said doing a survey in VR was more fun than another medium; 68% said they’d found it easy to use Google Cardboard headsets.

“We’re beginning to define what’s possible with these technologies, so it’s really interesting times ahead,” Bramley said.

Peter Pashley, head of development with ustwogames, the developers of VR game Lands End, described eight key elements of a successful VR experience:

  • Do extensive user testing and react to what people say
  • Remember that people are having a physical experience, not just a virtual one
  • Make the experience comfortable, and reduce the likelihood of motion sickness
  • Make it an interactive experience so users don’t get bored
  • Engage people’s curiosity and imagination
  • Consistency of visual experience is more important than making it photo-realistic
  • Great sound can make a huge difference
  • Every second people give to VR is time they’re detached from the real world. Make sure their time is rewarding.