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How to Use a Virtual Reality Heat Map

Our mission at InstaVR is to enable Virtual Reality creators to do three things: Author, Publish, and Analyze. It's that third facet -- analyze -- that is by far the most underappreciated. Though our right brains can come up with engaging immersive experiences, it's our left brains that determine the effectiveness of the VR creation and help to improve it.

There are two main components to analyzing InstaVR-created Virtual Reality. The first is actual numerical analytics, which our Pro customers can utilize by tying their VR project to their Google Analytics account. That will give you data around particular actions, such as how many total views per scene, how many hotspots initiated, etc.

The more interesting part of analysis is the Heat Map though. Below I'll walk you through what is a heat map, what is it used for, and who should be using them.

What is a Heat Map? 

A heat map is a visual representation of where users of your VR experience are looking. Without getting too technical, it's an overlay to give you a sense of where the users are spending the most time gazing. The color spectrum helps you to visually interpret engagement. 

Though heat maps have been around for a long time -- I used them in web analytics over a decade ago -- they are particularly well-suited for Virtual Reality, an inherently visual medium. And InstaVR Heat Maps contain two very specific value-added features: CSV Grid Export and Customizable Date Range (ie 1 day, 1 week, 1 month, etc).

What are Heat Maps Used For?

That really depends on the individual user. Proactive creators will use heat maps to judge the efficacy of their VR experiences, and improve future iterations. Below are three InstaVR-specific data points you can get from heat maps.

1. Where to Place a Hotspot - Hotspots are gaze-triggered images/video/text/audio narration. They are overlaid on top of your panoramic 360 to augment your immersive experience. Before adding hotspots, you can use a heat map to see where people are already spending their time within your images and video. If users are not focusing where you want, you can add hotspots to draw their attention to certain features.

2. How Effective Hotspots Are - Our tie-in to Google Analytics can give you raw numbers on how many hotspots are initiated. But how engaged with hotspots are users after they've initiated them? That can only be answered via a heat map. And if you find that people initiate a video, for example, then immediately look away -- you can assume the video is not adding value to the overall experience.

3. Where to Initially Orient the User - When you've captured a 360 image, where you first drop the user into your VR is important. Why? Statistics and common sense dictate that initial gaze point will be straight ahead. But what if you look at a heat map and see people are immediately drawn to a certain part of a room. Would it be better than to set that popular section as the initial focal point? Those are the type of questions that arise when you proactively utilize heat map data.

Who Should Be Using Heat Maps?

Everyone. Obviously, data-driven marketers are going to be very interested in heat maps, including the CSV export. But there are a lot of everyday users who can find value, including:

The Real Estate Agent, who can use a heat map to see if that fancy granite countertop is getting viewed during a home tour. If not, toss a hotspot with a close-up of the granit and description of it on there.

The Educator, who can see where her students are focused during their virtual tour of an art museum.

The Building Designer, who can see what parts of their 3D rendered building are drawing the most interest from future tenants, informing the construction before it actually happens.

Heat maps are, in my opinion, very underappreciated. But from our most active customers -- and those that have accountability in creating the best VR experience possible -- I know they hold a lot of value. Hopefully you'll consider utilizing them next time you publish virtual reality.

Interested in discussing heat map use cases? Contact our Head of Marketing, Andrew Woodberry, andrew at instavr.co.

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