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Virtual Reality – Real Insight August 8, 2017

Posted by Jon Ward in Advertising, eye tracking, Market Research, Shopper Research, Technology, Updates.
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Imagine the excitement, akin to a Christmas morning as the UPS delivery driver gets you to sign for the box that contains a thing of beauty, your shiny new VR headset. But this is no ordinary VR headset, oh no – not for you – master of all your survey, keeper of the technology, King or Queen of the early adopters! This is a VR headset with a built in eye tracker, and you are ready….. ready to dive into far off lands, explore supermarkets on the other side of the world and measure your virtual driving skills around the race track and then take over the world and….. hang on… wait a minute…. what are these instructions saying? “download the SDK and API and integrate it into your own platform….” but….. but….I don’t have time for this I have worlds to dominate! We hear you and we have the solution to your problem.

The current crop of eye tracking integrations into VR supply you with an API and SDK, and maybe some example code to stream and save data into Unity, WorldViz or similar… but not much else, and while some of the coders out there get excited about this blank canvas our experience is that most people want something they can work with pretty much right away. But it isn’t quite that easy.

Unlike screen based or glasses based eye tracking software where you have a lot of known parameters (the website is on screen and it is http://www.acuity-ets.com, or I know the user was shopping in Tesco in Croydon and this is what the shelf looked like), with VR you could be flying a spaceship down a canyon on Mars, or walking through a prototype Apple store in Singapore via a brief trip to a coffee shop to take part in a social science project. The boundless flexibility of virtual reality presents a challenge, it is almost impossible to create a platform that covers everything anyone might want to do in VR. ALMOST impossible.

At Acuity we have over 10 years’ experience in using eye tracking at the coal face, whether that is selling systems, running research, troubleshooting and advising on R&D or helping people go beyond the heatmap and get real value from the data and we know that people aren’t going to be happy with just an SDK for their new VR headset – they want more. So we made AcuityVR.

AcuityVR is a module designed to work with new or existing Unity assets, meaning that your existing investment in models can be reused, or you can build new ones and we have some amazing content partners we can recommend, if you don’t have in-house capabilities. We don’t ask you to change the way you do things, so if you use controllers for interaction then that’s fine; if you have enough space for people to walk your VR environment – not a problem for AcuityVR. The way we have designed it means that you can drop the code into a driving simulator, a walkthrough of a train station, a virtual pet grooming salon, a retail store, a clinical simulation or…. well just about anything!

We wanted to make the product a logical step from current eye tracking platforms on the market so you will see all the usual functionality in place – you can live view sessions and see the eye gaze as your participant moves around the environment; we have gaze replays, heat maps, opacity maps and statistical analysis of areas of interest – and all of these for single or multiple users. But VR gives us so much more opportunity – how about replaying multiple users at the same time while you view the environment from different angles and when you notice interesting behaviour simply switch to that persons point of view? Add multiple camera views to give different vantage points throughout the journey and view behaviour from 1st or 3rd person perspectives. We also measure and track footfall, dwell time and direction of journey – ideal for wayfinding and layout planning. Of course, being Acuity we know that eye-tracking data requires some specialised algorithms to turn data-points into fixations, and so we took care of that too, so you don’t need a PhD in eye-movements to make sense of the data.

One of the key benefits of research in VR is that you control the entire environment and this provides a number of benefits that simply can’t be matched in real world testing. Firstly every single item in an environment can be automatically classed as an AOI. That’s right, no more drawing little boxes or creating key frames. Every item in the environment can automatically have statistical data captured. In real time. If a person engaged with something you didn’t expect, no problem AcuityVR already has the stats. Measure fixations, glances, average fixations durations and time to first fixation instantly. Want to re-use the dataset for POS instead of product interaction, sure – the data is already there and rea   dy to go! All of our visualisations, replays, stats and other tools are available instantly after the session is finished – no more waiting for days for coding, number crunching or exporting image and videos. This leads to both time and cost efficiencies in research, design cycles and implementing change.

VR allows you to control the world (well, at least the virtual world – actual global domination comes later!) – imagine the possibilities of being able to dynamically change environments. Turn a daytime driving simulation into night instantly, then add some fog or a thunder storm. Take products out of stock off the shelf or change pricing in real time. Have an avatar respond negatively to the user by not making eye contact with them. Use 3D audio to totally immerse the user…. the possibilities are endless within VR, and eye tracking adds a whole new dimension for optimisation, interaction and research capabilities in virtual environments. But without a tool to capture and anlyse the data, all that potential can prove difficult to achieve. AcuityVR is that tool.

Give us a call, drop us an email or maybe send us a virtual hello at sales@acuity-ets.com or visit http://www.AcuityVR.com for more.

 

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