Wednesday, 6 March 2019 09:35

Why is the first time so awkward?

#Communicating #VR #AR Why is the first time so awkward?

In my work, I sometimes deal with people who use VR for the first time in their life. What I noticed is that all of them had a 'mixed feeling' look on their face after their first VR experience. Not that they don't like it. It's more like it's something too new and unknown for them to feel comfortable. I started asking myself - 'What's wrong? Maybe VR is not so cool after all? Can I change anything to make people fall in love with VR from first sight?'

Everybody's looking

I started analyzing how the typical first VR experience takes place. Who, where, when etc. And quite surprisingly my answer just popped up. Let's look at the facts. If you use VR for the first time, most likely somebody is showing it to you, right? Right. If somebody is showing it to you it can mean 2 things:

a. you are not at home. This is supposed to be your first VR experience, so I can assume you don't own a headset yet. This means that you are either at your friends' place, in a VR game cafe, in a company that is doing VR or on the same trade fairs.

b. you are not alone. There's at least one other person in the same room. Much more if you're on trade fair of some kind.

Back to school

What does it mean in practice? It means that you are in a place where you don't feel secure. Being there, you're doing something very different from everything you know. Your senses are cut off from the surrounding reality. And there are people looking at you.

Conclusion: It's like trying to sing a song in front of your class when you were in junior high school.

There are some factors that can make this experience even more stressful. A queue of people waiting to try out the same device. Unintuitive navigation. Fear of hitting real-world object with your hands. Some time ago I punched somebody straight between the eyes when playing around with new PlayStation VR. Quite embarrassing.

So how to make VR bearable for first-timers?

While there's no one-fits-all answer, you can make things easier for people. If you want to show a VR experience to somebody new, you should remember about few simple tips.

What to show?

Start with showing something easy to perceive. An attractive 360 movie seems to be a much better idea than a complex VR app with elaborate interactions and UI. Let your client/friend become familiar with new sensation before guiding him further.

Think about the theme. Don't show paragliding in 360 to somebody with a fear of height.

A great idea is to have a large screen that shows what is currently being displayed by the VR device. This way you can wear the headset and play around while the other user gets the overall idea of what is going to happen.

Where to do it?

Try to find a place that is not too intimidating. If you are showing VR to somebody at your office–try to find a room where nobody would disturb you. Let the person focus only on the new experience instead of worrying about looking silly. Or hitting someone. Or something. To put it otherwise–demonstrating VR in a loud and crowded open-space is the worst idea you could have.

Byt the way - that's why implementing VR on trade fair exhibition is a much more complicated issue than you would expect. Being there, you still need to remember about the viewer's comfort. And it's much more difficult to achieve this in a noisy and densely populated exhibition hall

When to do it?

No surprises here. Make sure that the person you want to introduce to VR is calm and relaxed. It's a bad idea to show new stuff to somebody who is stressed. When being overstrung, we tend to be more conservative and less open to new ideas or experiences. You don't want your friend/client to alienate to the fabulous VR adventure just because he had a rough day before.

To summarise:

Chill out. Give your colleague opportunity to do the same. Choose a VR experience that would match his interests. Does he like scuba diving? Cool, show a 360 movie from Bahamas by National Geographic. Describe what's going to happen. Finally, introduce a new user to wonderful world of Virtual Reality experiences.


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Marcin Stempniewicz
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