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How VR is decoding audience behaviour

For many journalists virtual reality is scary as they have no control of how their content is consumed. But, VR allows for a better understanding of how viewers behave when they are put in charge. How do they navigate through a video? What do they look at? How long for?

by Nick Tjaardstra nick.tjaardstra@wan-ifra.org | June 13, 2016

The annual Kentucky Derby horse race attracts two types of people: those who come to watch the hats, and those who come to watch their favourite horse. How do you distinguish the sports fans from the people-watchers? Virtual Reality may just offer an answer.

Software technology company NextVR, which is creating content with news organisations, uses cameras with additional sensors to track data from within a viewer’s VR experience. A dashboard with heatmaps and information from other data trackers visualizes the user’s behaviour. This data provides a better understanding of the intention of the audience. It enables NextVR to produce more engaging content, and to offer valuable data to advertisers.

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“The viewer data is very interesting for advertisers,” said Helen Situ, self-proclaimed VR evangelist at NextVR, when we interviewed her during a workshop organised by the Global Alliance for Media Innovation (GAMI) Workshop, at the annual World News Media Congress in Cartagena, Colombia on Sunday.

NextVR is all about live-streaming events. It has covered presidential debates, a Coldplay concert, and NBA games – all in real-time, with transmission delays just like those of traditional broadcasters. Providing an additional experience to coverage of FOX, NBC or CNN, sports is a major part of NextVR‘s output.

“It is a different experience from TV, I think that’s why many broadcasters are very excited to jump in on it,” Situ told the World Editors Forum, explaining that live VR makes you feel like you’re actually there, as opposed to 3D TV, which was only slightly different from traditional television.

By being able to track viewer behaviour in sports events, NextVR knows whether viewers actually look at certain advertisements in a stadium, at which moments in the game, and for how long. “With traditional media, the reporter is the director and the camera shows only that, so it’s interesting to find that data of what people are paying intention to when they decide what to watch,” Situ said.