//VR for Research: Tips and Tricks for Using Virtual Reality for Research

VR for Research: Tips and Tricks for Using Virtual Reality for Research

Virtual Reality (VR), and 360 media specifically, is being used extensively by researchers. Not only do they want to explore the ramifications of VR on society, but they also want to utilize the technology in their respective fields to gain insight. Below we’ll pass along some tips and tricks when using VR for Research.

As VR and AR become more pervasive in society, there’s a natural inclination to see how it can be used for research. The possibilities afforded by placing a user in an immersive environment are tremendous, and the cost savings afforded by the technology are significant. Researchers — at universities, at consulting firms, at private businesses — are exploring how effective the technology can be across a wide array of use cases.

As researchers look into the effects of the technology, both overall and on particular industries, it’s important for them to maximize features of the technology to get feedback. The immediacy and immersiveness of virtual reality are far superior to traditional 2D media. And while simply asking test subjects questions post-VR experience is valuable, you can gather actual data points in-app to have more formalized data.

Let’s explore the three most important features of InstaVR researchers may be neglecting while creating VR apps.


Heatmap Overlays to Show User Focus

We’ve discussed what a heatmap is previously on this blog. It’s one of the features that marketers and response-oriented VR builders ask us about the most. To give a quick summary, a heatmap takes a large set of data points collected on central focus of the VR experience over time, and then maps it out on the 360 image itself to visually represent where people were looking in given intervals when they had their headset on.

Some of the findings across VR using heatmaps are pretty universal. For instance, if you have people in your 360 video, your audience will be more likely to pay attention to the people than the surroundings. Also, the majority of 360 watchers still focus on the 180 initially presented in front of them, and the front 90 degrees in particular, despite having a full 360 view to work with.

However, you can still extrapolate some very interesting data from the heat maps, particularly easy to parse out if you use our export to CSV feature. One researcher used InstaVR to create a number of different VR smoking cessation experiences, then utilized the heatmap data exported to CSV to see which  commanded the most attention on the desired area of the 360 media. The focused attention signaled a VR experience that was successful. This is the type of data that allows data-driven VR producers to create effective VR media.


Hotspots to Create User Interaction

An important part of doing VR research is making the experience interactive. Hotspots, specifically, make a VR application go from passive to active. They necessitate the user to engage with the immersive environment, allowing for more decision making and information exchange. Interacting with a hotspot either via gaze or hand controller will overlay an image (jpg/png), a video (mp4), or text (saved in jpg/png format).

So how do you use Hotspots for research?

Let’s start with a very basic example. You can have Hotspots that convey information which you can test a user on later. For instance, you can have a VR viewer look at a shoe in a store to learn via hotspot video how that shoe was made. At the end of the VR experience, you can ask the subject how the shoe was made. If the recall is higher in the virtual environment than just watching that same standard 2d video on a computer, you can concluded that experiencing VR in a headset leads to more information recall. (And by extrapolation, VR is a better means of communicating information than traditional media).

There are an immense number of hotspot use cases. In the rush to create 360 images or video, too many of our clients neglect to make their apps interactive through adding hotspots. Particularly for research purposes, don’t underestimate the value of hotspots.


Analytics to Track User Behavior Data

Just as heatmaps show you where users focused their attention, analytics show you what features of the 360 environment your users interacted with. This can include both Navigation Links and Hotspots, the two main features of interactivity. You can learn more about setting up the InstaVR – Google Analytics combination here.

The nice thing about InstaVR Analytics is that it can aggregate user behavior anonymously over a large group of users. This is great for something like product research. You can present two items in VR — say a cereal in a store aisle — and ask your users to gaze at the item with the more alluring packaging. The 360 immersive environment simulates the real world, and you can record aggregate answers to see which is the more enticing packaging for getting consumer attention. You can simulate the buying environment as close as possible without having the test subjects actually have to visit the location.



Using VR for Research — either observing the affects of VR on headset wearers, or creating 360 environments to analyze user behavior — is extremely popular. We have college departments, innovation labs at large corporations, and very large consultancies all using InstaVR specifically to create VR applications where they can observe and record user behavior data. There’s no easier way to create and distribute VR than InstaVR. And when you throw in the interactivity possible in InstaVR — be in hotspots, heatmaps, or analytics — you can generate some very useful and insightful data.

If you’ve thought about using VR for Research, but thought it was too expensive or would take too much time, you will be surprised at how easy and cost effective VR is with our platform. Sign up for a free account at https://console.instavr.co/signup and let us know how if you’d like us to share your research findings with our 10,000+ customers.

2017-10-02T21:36:53+00:00 October 2nd, 2017|General|