Virtual reality has gotten more sophisticated over the years. Although its well-known applications lie in gaming and entertainment , its potential isn’t limited to these industries. Market research, for instance, is an avenue that has yet to be explored fully.Tech startup XpertVR is perhaps one of a handful of companies pushing the boundaries in this field, providing businesses with unique immersive solutions.
What Is XpertVR?XpertVR was founded by Drew MacNeil and Evan Sitler. They met through entrepreneurship programs at Goodman Group Venture Development. Their shared fascination with XR brought them together. Over the years, they considered 360 video marketing, VR entertainment booths, and training simulations before settling on XR tools to aid with research.
MacNeil and Sitler, driven by their interest in marketing, began consulting market research firms in 2018. They immediately learned how outdated the industry was. At the same time, they realized the potential for innovation in the market research industry.From then onwards, they started making retail environments for clients. Eventually, they landed a deal to manage, as well as consult, the Brock University R3CL facility. They haven’t stopped innovating since.
Using Virtual Reality for Market Research
The First Computer Virtual and Augmented Reality Headset – The ‘Ultimate Display’ Concept and the Sword of Damocles. If we could name one person as the father of Virtual and Augmented Reality headsets as we know them today, it would without a doubt be Ivan Sutherland. In the 1960s, he described the concept of the ‘Ultimate Display’ that would be able to stimulate reality to a point that the viewer would not be able to tell the difference between the virtual and the real world. His concept included a head-mounted display with 3D sound and tactile feedback, a computer that would create and maintain the virtual world through this device and the ability of a user to interact with objects from the virtual world in a realistic manner. Sutherland later created the first VR/AR head-mounted display, which was connected to a computer and not a camera, known as the Sword of Damocles. However, the contraption he made was too heavy for a person to wear comfortably on their head, so the device had to be suspended from the ceiling. Furthermore, the computer generated graphics were too primitive with wireframe rooms and objects.
One of the biggest challenges in traditional market research is creating realistic test environments. Due to budget and time constraints, companies often fail to deliver ideal testing scenarios, which leads to less than accurate data.
That’s where virtual reality comes in.
XpertVR uses immersive solutions to simulate stores, retailers, and many other user experiences, without having to build physical assets. From consumer behavior research to product A/B testing, the startup can create a variety of simulations to fit the needs of their clients.
So when studying the psychological effects of being immersed and interacting with others while immersed in virtual reality, researchers at the University of British Columbia decided to use yawning patterns as a benchmark to compare people’s behaviours in real-world, face-to-face interactions as opposed to VR.
“VR has made the data research traditionally collected much more abundant as well as less cost-prohibitive,”Sitler said in an interview. “Because of this and the far wider range of ideas that can be tested in VR, researchers are starting to focus more on the consumer’s experience.”
VR simulations enable researchers to gain detailed insights into consumer behavior, product designs, and commercial layouts while reducing operational costs. Since virtual mock-ups are customizable and controllable, they can make quick changes to testing environments. Plus, they won’t incur additional heavy costs in doing so.
Compared to traditional market research methods, VR solutions are less labor-intensive and more cost-effective. After all, virtual testing scenarios can be conducted in just a single location. That means researchers can test multiple environments without incurring exorbitant costs from moving participants between locations.
Startup Varjo is Creating a Bionic display lets you see VR as clearly as you see the real world because it works just like the human eye does.
Pushing the Limits of Research With Virtual Reality
XpertVR builds custom applications, which are compatible with different VR headsets and software platforms. For example, they made an immersive environment in Unity to test custom furniture models. They allow data collection using eye and hand tracking, audio and video capture, and other VR accessories. Moreover, they can help clients look for the most suitable hardware for any research endeavor.
As mentioned, XpertVR also works with researchers in the academic scene. The startup can help with grant applications by ensuring the technical accuracy of hardware and software. They can develop VR classrooms for students, where they can interact in real time. They can also teach researchers how to use VR solutions.
XpertVR developed a High Seas VR simulation for researchers from Brock University. The goal was to test whether people’s perception of the ocean would change after viewing future scenarios in VR. They designed two immersive scenarios of the high seas in 2050: an above and below water simulation.
The simulation turned out to be a fun and positive experience for participants. At the same time, the researchers were able to get the data they needed.
The Future of Virtual Reality and Market Research
“There are many ways VR could influence market research,”MacNeil said.“But XpertVR thinks the most interesting will be around researching and deploying brand experiences.”
XpertVR has no doubt that virtual reality can make brand interactions more engaging for consumers. Additionally, they believe VR-driven research will propel businesses to make investments in these immersive experiences.
As for XpertVR’s future, they are working on Research Access Portal. The portal lets researchers perform studies faster and within budget. They’ll be adding more tools and features in the coming months.
Virtual Reality Doesn’t Have to be Expensive. The idea that virtual reality is expensive to produce comes up over and over from businesses interested in creating an experience. The truth is although virtual reality can be expensive, it isn’t always expensive. Like most things, virtual reality’s price greatly depends on the scope of the project. Companies can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars investing in the technology. However, other companies like YouVisit can create the same type of experience with costs ranging in the low to mid five figures.
“Our hope is that this portal will benefit researchers around the world, giving both academic and private researchers the power to better understand human behavior and make a positive impact on the world through their research,”MacNeil shared.