GSD&M And Metaversatility Use Avatars for Virtual World Research
The Idea Bot platform screens and surveys potential research panelists while they are inside the world via an avatar--one that has been customized to look and behave like any other world resident. Once users interact with the Bot, it invites them to take part in the research, screens them according to the panel's demographic standards and then walks them through the survey.
According to Peter Haik, cofounder and CEO of San Antonio-based Metaversatility, the best part is that the entire process takes place in-world. "Our bot is the survey, so there's no breaking the immersion. Users don't have to get kicked out to the Internet because they clicked on a link," Haik said.
Maintaining the integrity of the virtual experience is key to getting users to buy in, interact with a brand and not feel exploited. Metaversatility has a successful track record when it comes to doing just that. In fact, that's why Omnicom's Idea City chose to partner with the virtual development and design firm.
"We'd been looking at the different sites, islands and experiences that other brands had created in Second Life, and noticed that Metaversatility's projects for Scion and Orange delivered the best experiences for people in world, while creating an effective brand experience at the same time. And that's extremely hard to do." said Rene Huey-Lipton, vice president and director of Marketplace Planning at GSD&M Idea City.
Indeed, the Austin, Texas-based shop had already developed Idea City Island, a property in Second Life, with virtual design firm The Electric Sheep Company--but the relationship was winding down and Idea City was searching for a new partner. "So we came together over this idea of research," Huey-Lipton said. "They wanted to explore and so did we."
The companies started working on Idea Bot in early January, and by mid-February, they had launched an in-world contest enticing Second Life residents to design the avatars that would be used. "It was a way to get the community involved with the project themselves," Haik said.
Currently, the avatars are only found on Idea City Island, which also boasts a design center that Second Life residents can use to create their own in-world content. But Huey-Lipton said that Idea Bots will soon be posted at various locations, both popular and off the virtual beaten path. "They won't be obtrusive survey pushers, but we're going to place them where we can get a wide range of people to be panelists, from premium members to newbies, furries and minis," she said. "Because we know that if we're truly going to be an effective research partner for brands, then they need to understand all the different types of people who reside in Second Life."
Huey-Lipton said they are shooting for a panel size of at least 1,500 residents, so that Idea City can "slice and dice them demographically, and pull out certain segments to talk to them when we need to--not for every piece of research." She added that the first study seemed likely to launch in about six weeks, as the agency is in talks with an interested party. The companies also plan to expand the Idea Bots to There.com and Metaplace.