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Virtual Reality – Quo Vadis? How to Address the Complete Audience of an Emerging Technology (Full Paper)
Abstract and Figures
With the introduction of the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift in 2016 the old technology (Sutherland 1965) of Virtual Reality (VR) has experienced quite a boost: it seems foreseeable that the once " geek and nerd " (Mizer 2013) technology will attract a growing consumer audience and is going to find its place within the universe of entertainment. However, when consumer VR applications are presented the two focused key audiences are on the one hand the cliché young male (intended use: gaming) (Hern 2014) on the other hand high end professionals (intended use: engineering, etc.). If this trend continues not only a majority of potential users will be excluded but rather the applications and their content cannot tap the full potential of this technology at all. 1. Study and Hypothesis We re-evaluated a study from Heeter (1994) that questioned content preferences from users who have not experienced VR and probably had only a vague idea what it might be (since the study was conducted in 1993 it is not surprising that this technology had not yet found a widespread distribution). She stated that men are more likely to adore this technology and its interaction patterns: She clustered activities into seven categories (Virtual Fitness, Virtual Travel, Virtual Learning, Virtual Games, Virtual Sex, Virtual Combat, Virtual Presence)–in none of them the values of interest of women were higher than the values of the men. We conducted a similar study that questioned 168 test persons between the age of 17 to 50 (mean age: 27 years) of which 89 were female and 76 were male. Divergent from the cited study by Heeter the majority (more than 66%) of our test population had already experienced applications in VR at least once–whereby we noticed a significant gender difference–maybe due to the mentioned cliché: over 48% of our female test population has not tried VR at all yet (compared to 21% of males without VR experience). What needs to be done in order to delight women to give VR a chance in their media consumption habits? Are Heeter's results after almost 25 years–what is an aeon in computer technology–and with up-to-date media perception habits still correct? 2. Results If a female has tried VR at least once, we found out that not only women are nearly as highly interested in this technology as their male counterparts, they share also a comparable approach for visual quality: On a scale from 1 (uninterested) to 7 (highly interested) the male answered with a mean of 5.62 and the females with 5.39. With this finding we can state, that although the technology needs to advance the salient point of gender differences in VR is the differing demand of content and application scenarios that women ask for. This effect is similar to conventional media: i.e. the significant gender differences in TV content preferences (IfD Allensbach 2016) that show that males and females have different media consumption habits in general. 245
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