Boldly going where we’ve bodily gone before

There’s something of a cultural truism around the notion that where pornography goes, the mass-market soon follows – at least when it comes to technology. The Adult Entertainment Industry has been trumpeting Virtual Reality (VR) as the next (sizeable) thing, particularly with the recent launch of technology such as Oculus Rift which delivers ‘next generation’ VR to the domestic environment in a relatively accessible way. Tech mags are also wondering if once again, our base desires might drive the next killer application rather than immersive gaming or films, and really take VR mainstream.

Regardless, we think the dialogue probably means that VR is, and will become, a mainstream technology. Already, beyond gaming and ‘adult entertainment’, industrial, built and product designers are making use of VR as a space to create and simulate before manufacturing; David Attenborough has been creating virtual reality experiences for the Australian Museum in Sydney; musician and artist Bjork has been further pushing the boundaries of VR in her recent work; in other words, there’s a new level of individual exploration emerging, and it has some interesting implications for market research.

There are obvious ‘killer applications’ for VR in the research space; we can observe and understand the customer experience in detail via simulation, and product prototypes, new retail spaces, and spatial layouts (including restaurants, public spaces and supermarket shelves) can all be interrogated and understood in a centralised way and without the need for expensive mock-ups or physical simulations.

None of this is really that radical here at Stancombe HQ and we’re already integrated it into our projects – yes, really – it’s happening.

For us, it’s already a part of design-thinking, customer experience and innovations projects. Sure, there are things that we need to be cognisant of in terms of how we go about integrating it and the level of comfortability that people have with the technology right now, but it is shaping up as an important research tool for our services, retail and built environment clients in particular; not surprising as VR is already at the core of contemporary design practices. So let’s add research to the mix – it’s a natural for the virtual. 

But here’s another thing we’re exploring …

The issue of stakeholder and client engagement is a perennial one. At the most recent AQR / QRCA conference in Vienna (April 2016), we spent a lot of time talking with our peers in Europe and the USA about new and interesting ways to really drive this. Once again, the subject of VR emerged in conversation. Can we imagine how powerful the technology might be as a means of getting our clients to really step into the world of customers? To share customer experiences by virtually walking in their shoes? To enable stakeholders to move from a vicarious observational position to potentially being right inside a customer’s experience? We all thought it probably wouldn’t take too much to achieve; multiple GoPros, the right software, and obviously the right kind of resourcing. It seems an exciting and enriching prospect to what we do and to our industry.

Wonder how much ‘adult entertainment’ is captured via GoPro these days?