IdeaSuite blends VR capabilities with real-world research | Crain's Portland

IdeaSuite blends VR capabilities with real-world research

IdeaSuite's large research space allows for testing full room-scale VR or a seated VR experience.  Photo courtesy of Guido Van Nispen/Flickr

Did you know you can design the perfect kitchen, test out your next vehicle or explore a new city – all from the same room?

It’s now possible with Idea Suite’s new virtual reality testing capabilities, developed in its Portland-based research facility.

IdeaSuite's new VR testing capabilities will allow developers, market researchers and usability analysts to test their VR products in a state-of-the art setting, enabling researchers to observe and record users' interactions with both VR hardware components and virtual environments.

"Interest in VR is growing very rapidly," says IdeaSuite’s General Manager, Damian Conrad. "The applications are myriad, from tourism to retail to architecture. Marketers are rolling out systems allowing customers to walk through virtual spaces, see and interact with kitchen designs, view car interiors, or tour homes.

:The possibilities are endless, and companies are showing tremendous interest in the platform. We're still in the early development stages of VR, but many companies are looking to see how they can leverage the technology to enhance their marketing programs," Conrad said. 

The new capabilities, combined with IdeaSuite's in-house video capture and streaming system, will provide VR researchers a complete picture of the participant and their interactions with the technology.

IdeaSuite's large research studio provides total freedom of movement for the participant during the study making it possible to conduct seated, or full room-scale VR studies.

"We are very experienced in working with usability researchers studying computers, mobile devices, and wearables, but testing VR applications requires additional technologies and a different approach," Conrad said. "The foundation of our in-house system is a powerful computer – custom-built for the highest resolution VR. We can test any headset, but we have as part of our stock equipment the industry leading HTC Vive VR headset.

Catching on

Still, the idea of VR training is so new that IdeaSuite has yet to have any takers in its first couple of months of offering this business. In general, there has been limited ability to measure VR’s effectiveness as a business tool, and it has shortcomings. Some people feel awkward putting on the headsets, and some experience motion sickness. VR doesn't lend itself to training for jobs that require manual dexterity, for instance – in the virtual world, you're rarely able to see your hands.

Jessica Outlaw, a Portland-based researcher and behavioral scientist specializing in VR, is excited about the possibilities IdeaSuite’s space presents. She says VR research differs considerably from traditional research and focus group methods.

“For people who’ve never tried VR before, it can take some getting used to. People aren’t used to being an avatar and interacting with other people as avatars online,” Outlaw says. “It’s not like texting or answering questions. People can invade your space. The whole immersiveness of VR tends to be very persuasive.”

Outlaw says VR can allow people to enter a showroom, walk around, sit in a car and then test-drive it.

“When digital and real worlds collide, the possibilities for enterprise are endless,” she said.

June 15, 2017 - 9:36am