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In our latest research, we explored how technology is creating new opportunities within the insight industry. To date, there’s been a great deal of hype about the potential of virtual reality (VR). But we believe that it’s augmented reality (AR) where the real opportunity lies for research right now. Why?

AR will help us test concepts in-context

Augmented reality has one fundamental advantage over virtual reality in that it enables you to place digital items – such as images, videos and even animated 3D objects – in real environments. This has huge significance for our industry. Why? Because it provides a way to test concepts with consumers in context. The result? You’re able to get beyond hypothetical questions and uncover actual, rather than claimed, reactions.

Augmented reality could be used to test everything from product prototypes and packaging to in-store displays, even out of home advertising, all in the appropriate environment. And with AR prototypes both cheap and relatively quick to create, the concepts can be iteratively improved and retested with consumers at speed, to further develop the strongest ideas. The result? You’re able to get further along the development process, faster.

VR will remain expensive and cumbersome in the short-term

At present, most virtual reality environments created for the purposes of research are unrealistic and cumbersome to navigate, making it nigh on impossible to uncover genuine consumer behaviour in these settings. What’s more, virtual reality environments are really costly to develop, making them prohibitively expensive for most types of research.

Because of this, the only real application of virtual reality, at least for now, is for testing high-value, large-scale items such as new car models or store layouts. Whilst VR has limited use for research at present, it won’t be all too long before this changes. We believe that by 2023, the technology will have developed to such an extent that we’ll be able to start using it in our industry.

Looking to tap into AR and VR? Here’s how to make a start.

Give AR a go

There are a number of cheap or free tools out there that you can use to try out AR. Why not get in touch with your tech team and start experimenting? As a starting point, think about how you could use AR to test 2D concepts, like point of sale material, with consumers in context.

Try out 360

360 video, viewed through cardboard headsets, is a great alternative to full-scale virtual reality experiences. And they’re proving popular, with Google having shipped over 10 million Cardboard VR headsets to date. We’ve found 360 video a fantastic tool for immersing stakeholders in a customer’s world. So why not grab a 360 camera and give it a go for yourself?

Want to know more about how tech trends like AR and VR are reshaping the world of research? Download our latest report to learn more about how everything from smart speakers right through to chatbots are creating new opportunities in our industry.