March 22, 2017

Battle of the immersive environments - who came out on top?

In this fast paced digital world, Virtual Reality is quickly becoming the next exciting, emerging platform, budding with opportunity.

Google Cardboard is a simple, but revolutionary, piece of equipment that has brought VR into the mainstream. As of January 2016 over 5m of these small, but mighty, Cardboard devices have been shipped. Thousands of apps have been developed, with over 25 million downloads. The whirlwind of Pokémon Go last year sent consumers into a frenzy, seeing over 500m downloads, catapulting Augmented Reality into the mainstream.


At Navigate, we recently had the pleasure of being taken through YuMe’s 2016 Research “Exploring Engagement within Immersive Environments”. YuMe wanted to understand a user’s emotional and physical response, and how they differed, when presented with VR, 360-degree video and 2D. They used three video clips, shown to 150 respondents, between the ages of 21 – 39. The content in the three videos varied by levels of narration and opportunity to explore:

  1. Video One: Helicopter fly over of Las Vegas
  2. Video Two: Animated film promotion
  3. Video Three: Bartender absinthe tutorial

YuMe showed users each of these videos in either VR, 360 or 2D and monitored their response through emotional engagement (heart rate and galvanic skin response), eye tracking and body movement.

This experiment found that across all videos tested, content viewed in VR was more emotionally engaging than content viewed in other platforms, eliciting a 27% higher emotional engagement than the flat-screen, 2D experience. This makes sense, as VR blocks out other distractions and demands a user’s full attention. YuMe looked more deeply into the results by video and concluded three key takeout’s:

  1. Content with exploration leads to higher levels of engagement in immersive environments. Users watching the Las Vegas Helicopter video in VR were engaged the whole time, however for the bartender tutorial, as the action was only happening in one direction users stopped exploring and were only engaged 31% of the time. For brands experimenting with VR and 360 they need to be sure they’re utilising the technology to its full potential, providing a rich visual experience in all directions to maintain user’s attention.
  1. For 360 video, as the user is in control of their framed view, it can be difficult for brands to tell a story. If users are facing the wrong direction they could miss a crucial part. For storytelling within 360, creators need to balance freedom and flow - Provide opportunity for viewers to explore and engage, but still guide the experience to reach your objectives. A way to manipulate the viewers’ attention is audio, alerting them that something is happening out of shot.
  1. With these new technologies, we need to consider what metrics are truly reflective, relevant and important. Using a standard metric, such as a view rate, across all videos and mediums doesn’t give us an understanding of the user’s genuine reaction. Instead looking at gaze metrics, emotional engagement and movement, this gives a much more insightful picture of user response. However, obviously these are much trickier to measure and compare.

So based on this what would my advice be to brands? Think about what you’re trying to achieve and what platform is best suited for this. VR was the top performer in terms of engagement, however this was most effective when there was an exciting environment to explore. If there isn’t going to be an opportunity for exploration (like the bartender tutorial), or it’s important the viewers’ attention is focused in a particular direction to tell the brand story, it might be more effective to use 2D.We’re pleased to see our client Monarch dipping their toe into the world of 360, through an engaging 360 competition, challenging users to locate a boarding pass in a spectacular 360 time-lapse video of Porto. A wonderful and intelligent use of this new technology, incentivising users to explore one of Monarch’s key destinations.Jessica Hughes, Account Manager

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