The world of virtual reality has only begun to open up. The opportunities to create a memorable experience are limitless. This is both exciting and frightening for designers: where in the world do you start? How do you create something that will leave the viewer with the experience that you want them to leave with?
As a UX designer, I always start with the users. And with a background in psychology, I like to get inside their heads. Such a large part of the human experience revolves around emotions. Mad, happy, sad, excited, disappointed, euphoric, devastated: we feel it all. Think about your favorite memory. What things do you remember most? Is it what you see and hear? Or there a strong emotion attached that makes that memory special? A good designer needs to find a way to elicit these emotions from users, thus engaging them in an experience that is both enjoyable and memorable.
More specifically in the VIRJOX project, we are interested in how a 360-degree video/experience can evoke emotions in viewers. What better way to find out than to investigate with random people?
Lean and agile designing requires a “quick and dirty” approach to getting the information you need. “Guerilla testing” is a great way to do that. This inexpensive and efficient method involves going out into the world and using more or less random individuals for your testing. You should always keep your main user group(s) in mind, but to test out initial concepts you often have to work with what you have. As a researcher in a university, I am lucky enough to have hundreds of potential participants walking up and down the halls. Although most people try to walk past you quickly, eyes averted, avoiding your eager smile as if you’re the guy selling lotion in a mall corridor, you must swallow your pride and persist! No one likes to be bothered when going about their daily business, but if you’re friendly, earnest, and polite you will succeed (also having a cool VR headset in plain view doesn’t hurt). Once you’ve gathered your confidence and snagged a participant, it’s important to use every second of their time wisely. Make sure there is a plan to follow and that the participant isn’t kept for too long.
Using this rapid testing method, we were able to get a quick idea about how 360-degree videos can affect viewers. They do indeed have the ability to bring out strong emotions, and the immersion of VR only makes those emotions stronger. Virtual reality makes it possible for users to discover new worlds and new experiences. And we’re only at the tip of the iceberg of possibilities…