Imagine a world where information, social connection and purchases are not constrained by physical location. Oh, wait—this is already possible today.
The “future” of tomorrow is here now, including in virtual spaces through augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) and virtual realms like Minecraft and Roblox and VR game Beat Saber. Already, 45% of U.S. adults say they’re likely to buy virtual or real products they see or create in virtual worlds, according to a recent Ipsos online community survey.
We’re using these technologies to take research to the next level. Researching in these virtual worlds is the next frontier. Brands that embrace this now will be better prepared to compete in the future. When we think about how to research in VR/AR spaces, the question isn’t, “Is this possible?” The question is, “How should we start?”
First, let’s do some level setting. VR/AR tech cannot fully replace physical, real-world research. However, VR/AR supplements and supports the research cycle. A smart place to start is from the very beginning—concepting, exploratory research and discovery. It can be costly to produce a physical prototype at an early stage when there are many unanswered questions—especially when so much of the design could change depending on consumer or user feedback. Research in VR/AR allows for continued iteration and refinement during that early part of the product or marketing cycle.
Then, to keep an eye on the budget, instead of mocking up a physical prototype and renting out a lab, you recreate a digital, 3D version of the product concept. You can place it in a simulated, realistic environment that can be accessed through desktop computer, mobile device or a VR or AR headset.
Next, you can lock down your test product(s) with a password and “ship” it to anyone with a secure link and grant temporary access. Since your product lives in a secure cloud server, you can still access it, update it, create multiple versions and test your product with real consumers all over the world.
Virtual testing is already happening—we can better leverage the technology to bring it to the environments where people and products are going.