Some of the benefits of conducting research studies in Virtual Reality
An academic laboratory comprises several space types for conducting research and development studies. Sadly, due to COVID-19, many such academic labs around the world have shut down, which has resulted in the halting of various scientific and non-scientific research activities. What has further exacerbated the situation is the unavailability of research participants to collect data about human behaviour.
Such an unprecedented time calls for a new-age solution that can help in the continuity of research studies. This is where Virtual Reality comes into play. With VR, researchers who are working on a range of scientific areas or doctoral students who are working on their dissertations can build immersive, interactive, and realistic research scenarios.
In real life, Academic laboratories may face some challenges like preventing COVID spread or even hazardous chemical spills. Such disasters affect the entire academic research community at many levels. It can lead to a waste of time and resources for the researchers. Damaged goods and equipment can cost institutions a huge amount of money, interrupt ongoing day-to-day operations and lead to injuries. Given the possibilities of such unexpected occurrences, VR is a safe bet for researchers to conduct studies in a controlled environment.
Traditionally, researchers have been collecting qualitative and quantitative data using Questionnaires, Face to Face interactions, and Focus Groups. However, conducting such studies in a situation like COVID-19 is proving to be a cumbersome task. Even pre-COVID, collecting data using traditional tools has remained a challenge for researchers to drive accurate and unbiased results. This is where Virtual Reality can make a difference. VR improves the quality of data and saves time in data collection. Virtual Reality combined with other technologies such as Eye-tracking tools and Bio-Sensors can help in identifying users’ involuntary muscle movements, which is difficult to monitor using traditional methodologies.
Now that you have learned why VR is important for conducting research, let us understand how to conduct research studies in Virtual Reality.
How to get started with remote research studies in VR
Choosing participants from the population is one of the most crucial factors in conducting research studies. What kind of demographic a researcher wants to target would depend on the information the researcher requires from the targeted sample. For example, the Government looking to implement an Electric Vehicle Policy may want to reach out to people who drive a car to work frequently and ask for their opinion on shifting to electric vehicles.
There are three things that you may need to consider in your sampling plan:
- What requirements do you have for your study?
- Is this demographic easily reachable remotely? (older demographics may not be)
- Age, location, gender, income level, hobbies, occupation
How to compensate your participants
Market Research incentives have a great impact on the participants’ behaviour towards a research study. They are a couple of research incentives that a researcher might look into when deciding on participant rewards.
One of the most popular money transfer services might be a great platform for incentivizing participants overseas, however, it is also to be noted that only a small percentage of the world’s population has a PayPal account.
Global E-gift cards are one of the most popular choices of the participants. They are provided by e-commerce retailers like Amazon, Uber and more. These e-gift cards are sent to the participants who can redeem them while purchasing a product. However, it is crucial to check the terms and conditions when it comes to sending vouchers across countries.
Estimating how much you need to pay per participant would depend on various factors like the duration of the study, types of participants, and the follow-up activities.
What kind of equipment do you want your participants to have?
Virtual Reality has turned out to be a go-to option for consumers over the past few months to wane off the despair and anxiety caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. Companies such as Facebook and HTC have been playing a great role in developing HMD’s, and soon we will be seeing mass adoption of VR headsets across the globe. However, what kind of VR headsets you require your participants to have depends on the type of research study (for suggestions talk to industry experts at XpertVR)
Additionally, augmenting VR with other measurement tools like biofeedback monitors and eye-tracking further broadens the application of VR research. With eye-tracking headsets, researchers can monitor consumers’ attention levels and accuracy of response.
PC and laptops are still being used to conduct research studies, as most people own one or both of the devices, however, unlike VR, they lack immersion and interactivity.
Collecting and analyzing consumer data forms a major part of the research study. A researcher needs to plan the right method of collecting data from human participants. Here are some of the methods:
One of the traditional methods of collecting data is surveys. Researchers can gather information about human participants in just a few minutes. However, such methodology leaves room for ambiguous results due to human biases.
VR combined with a third-party immersive analytics tool allows a researcher to record participants’ involuntary responses such as Heartbeat, Resting Rate, Gaze, and much more. For example, Cognitive3D, an immersive analytics platform that records, measures, aggregates, and analyzes data from VR, AR, and MR experiences.
Video-Conferencing tools like Zoom are used by the researchers for qualitative data collection. However, it is important to understand Zoom’s encryption policy and let participants also know about it. Whichever methodology is selected, researchers need to adhere to research ethics and take the consent of the participants before conducting the research.