Virtual reality (VR) is still very much a niche technology despite its increasing popularity since recent years. VR has now reached a point where it can offer photorealistic experiences, while also being consumer-friendly and affordable. However, so far only a very limited amount of software has been developed for the specific purpose of conducting (social science) research. In this article, we illustrate that integrating virtual reality to good effect in social science research does not necessarily require specialized hardware or software, an abundance of expertise regarding VR-technology or even a large budget. We do this by discussing our use of a method we have come to call ‘VR-assisted interviews’: conducting a (semi-structured) interview while respondents are confronted with a virtual environment viewed via a VR-headset. This method allows respondents to focus on what they are seeing and experiencing, instead of having them worry about how to operate a device and navigate an interface they are using for the first time. ‘VR-assisted interviews’ are very user-friendly for respondents but also limits options for interactiveness. We believe this method can be a valuable alternative, both because of methodological and practical considerations, for more complex applications of VR-technology in social science research.
- Cultural sociology
- Virtual reality