BBC research on consumer attitudes to VR

Virtual Reality has been a hot topic for the last couple of years, but for many general consumers the jury is still very much out on how useful the platform is on a day-to-day basis outside the sphere of gaming. That’s why it’s interesting to dive into the BBC’s latest research on how the average consumer feels about VR.

The general consensus is that for VR to be successful it needs simple, intuitive and consistent interfaces, better curation and content discovery, and a higher supply of quality content which is ‘worth the effort’, i.e. not something that they can simply watch on TV instead. Below is a very broad recap:

  1. What did audiences think about VR before they’d actually tried it?
    • Most participants were broadly excited about the prospect, but mainly associated VR with gaming.
    • Some were worried about getting nauseous or looking silly in front of friends and family.
  2. How did participants react to their first experience?
    • Participants were ‘equally enthralled and delighted’.
    • Their initial – fairly low – expectations were far outstripped in terms of the quality of the experience.
  3. What content resonated?
    • Generally participants wanted to get straight to experiences designed to get your blood pumping, things like horror, rollercoasters and other extreme experiences that they wouldn’t normally do and which had some novelty value.
    • Leading the audience on a journey is crucial; experiences without a narrative or goal tended to fall flat – experiences with good story-telling or clear objectives worked well.
    • Presence and embodiment were also important as the viewer must feel ‘there’ to be immersed (e.g. a Cirque du Soleil experience where the characters made plenty of eye contact with the viewer).
    • Audiences need time to process and understand what is happening around them before being able to follow a narrative. When and where to draw their attention is also fundamentally important.
  4. What are the key challenges to overcome for VR to become mainstream?
    1. Many of the participants found the user interface to be tricky.
    2. Often the way to navigate around various VR environments differs from app to app.
    3. Difficulty discovering new content was a huge issue.
    4. Some users were concerned about being shut-off from what’s happening around them.
    5. Social norming – some were anxious about feeling stupid in front of friends.
    6. Physical space – often audiences weren’t in the right physical situation – sitting down on a sofa after a long day or lying in bed is not conducive to an experience which necessitates turning around and looking behind you.
    7. Proximity of headset – the headset needs to be conveniently available.
    8. Social interaction – for some audiences the insular / individual nature of the experience was off-putting.
    9. Often the headsets or the screens of the phone will be dirty, blurring or obscuring the images.
    10. The phone must be charged.
    11. If you haven’t used your headset for a while, you might forget how to use it.
    12. Many handsets overheated after 30 or so minutes of usage.
    13. Variable Wi-Fi quality leading to poor content resolutions and slow download speeds.

Check it out for yourself here.