Ipsos MORI and Gorilla In The Room’s pioneering ‘shock and gore’ project shows real world viability for virtual reality in recreating environments.
Using VR to accurately recreate environments for market research took a significant step forward after a pioneering project between Gorilla In The Room, Ipsos MORI and The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) confirmed its effectiveness for over 90 percent of respondents.
The aim of the project was to establish the strength of the emotional responses elicited in VR compared to theatre and live to cinema performances when watching The RSC production of Titus Andronicus, Shakespeare’s goriest revenge tragedy. Comparing the number of times the heart rates of theatre goers, cinema goers, and respondents wearing VR headsets peaked above average was comparable in all conditions across the performance. “The results have shown us that even after more than 400 years Shakespeare’s work still packs an emotional punch, wherever and however it is experienced,” says Sarah Ellis, RSC Director of Digital Development.
A key finding, with implications for both theatre performance and research purposes, was that all participants who viewed the full three-hour performance of Titus Andronicus within the VR (HTC Vive) headset did so willingly and with no side effects. Tolerance to 360 video in VR was both strong and positive with 63% stating that they would consider VR to experience theatre in the future.
91% felt there were times when they were physically present in the theatre. VR made a much larger percentage of the audience feel present in the performance than cinema, in which only six in ten participants felt that they were there. An analysis of verbatim comments also showed that VR encouraged a higher level of emotional engagement than cinema. VR’s immersive nature simulated the theatre experience so well that many exhibited theatre style behaviour, such as clapping and laughing.
Dr Alastair Goode, Cognitive Scientist at Gorilla In The Room says: “This project has shown, under the right conditions, VR provides an effective environment to undertake research and be confident that the results are representative. It highlights the potential for VR to have a greater impact on consumer research than Behavioural economics.”
Pippa Bailey, Ipsos MORI’s Head of Innovation, adds: “Being able to use VR to recreate situations and scenarios, virtually anywhere, has the potential to transform the way we undertake research. For example, in the testing of new environments (e.g. travel hubs and retail spaces), the evaluation of out of home ads/comms, the evaluation of pricing, promotions, POS, concepts, and new/revised packaging.”
Becky Loftus, RSC Head of Audience Insight, says: “It was fascinating to watch people being so immersed in the 360 filmed VR experience that they forgot they weren’t at the theatre. One respondent kicked his shoes off then looked down and was shocked not to see his legs there.”
Mainstream media (e.g. The Times), the research industry (e.g. ResearchLive) and theatre tiles (e.g. The Stage) have covered the story.
A total of 107 participants took part in the study, split out across three different experiences; live theatre, live to cinema and in VR. Heart rate monitors were worn to biometrically measure emotional engagement throughout the performance and a mobile survey, incorporating video as well as explicit and implicit questions, was used at the end of the performance to gain further understanding of each experience. The closeness of VR to theatre in terms of audience experience, and particularly when compared to live cinema, demonstrates the immersive technology's ability to simulate reality. The project showed the potential for VR to be a robust and, potentially, more cost-effective tool for immersive commercial research.
Ipsos continues to work with Gorilla In The Room to identify opportunities for incorporating virtual and mixed reality into its research offering to provide more realistic representations of stimuli, and hence deeper and more valid insights.