The impact of audience-size on the appeal of virtual reality, and how to offset this
Virtual reality in a public place is enticing for some, yet daunting for others. Past research on stage fright has found that having peers perform with you can offset this. We tested whether this finding extends to trying virtual reality in a busy public setting, and whether any such effects are influenced by extraversion. In Experiment 1, we ran an online study with 100 participants and found that images of single users trying virtual reality in front of an audience created more anxiety for users than images with no audiences. This has significant impacts for the immersive sector, with such setups severely deterring people from taking part in VR.
However, this barrier was not equal for all users. Extroverted individuals were less affected by audience size compared to introverts in terms of how anxiety-provoking they considered the scenario. Experiment 1 also found that the presence of a monitor showing one’s virtual reality ‘performance’ made Extroverts keener to try the experience, yet Introverts less keen.
We then tested the main findings of Experiment 1 in a real-world scenario. Experiment 2 was conducted with 69 participants observing 0-3 individuals trying a virtual-reality experience in the foyer of a busy library. We assessed the observers’ anxiety levels for potentially taking part in the VR experience, and their Willingness to Try. Whilst anxiety levels were again influenced by the size of the audience watching, this increased anxiety did not actually negatively impact Willingness to Try virtual reality. The findings presented here offer some ways to make public space virtual reality experiences more accessible, whilst suggesting future steps to properly assess some exploratory findings presented here.
Andy T. Woods
I have a background in academia, industry and the start-up world. My focus is on the interplay between audience insight, software development, and new immersive measurement technologies. I enjoy delivering new solutions to audience insight, based on a mashup of cutting-edge technologies and developing new innovative psychological audience insight techniques.