360 & VR For Better Insights

We’re increasingly adding 360 and VR to our toolkit - here’s some best practice advice from Crowd DNA director Anna Chapman...

Many of our projects at Crowd DNA involve helping our clients to understand consumer needs and behaviour. And as consumer culture adopts new ways of doing things, we bring these trends into our work. That’s why last year we started to explore virtual reality and 360 cameras for insights work; after all, 89 million VR headsets were sold in 2016 (many of them in time for Christmas).

Consumers have an appetite for VR because it allows them to learn and experience the unusual in the comfort of their own home. From self-development to gaming to shopping, they’re keen to explore these opportunities. Who wouldn’t want to be on stage with their favourite band or fly around the moon without having to spend $150mil? Clients are keen to step into this virtual world too, exploring consumer lives through 360 footage and immersive experiences.

We’re using VR in two ways – as a tool for gathering insights (eg. using 360 cameras) and as a content format for immersing clients in the consumer world and socialising insight. Below are some thoughts around best practice for both.

– Google Cardboard is the go-to device for consumers – it’s inexpensive, easy to use and compatible with most smartphones.

– 360 footage is great for exploring spaces eg. if a client wants to look at the layout or products in a participant’s home.

– Keep VR experiences short (definitely under 15 minutes) – some people suffer side effects like tired eyes and dizziness. Not something you want a client to feel.

– Wearing a VR headset is more fun – and engaging – than looking at a powerpoint deck. Make this an activity at a client debrief or a workshop if you can.

– Think about how the content will be consumed – a 360 photo shot on a smartphone is much cheaper to produce and can be hosted on YouTube (see the Crowd office example above). At the moment this is more impactful and easier to send to a client than creating a bespoke headset experience.

– VR isn’t going to replace real life, it just adds another layer. Similarly, use VR to add an extra dimension alongside other methods and outputs.

Of course, the world of VR is changing rapidly and as it does, so will our methods for gathering and socialising insight. Microsoft’s HoloLens is calling out to developers to get involved in Mixed Reality or MR, which will merge the best bits of VR with Augmented Reality. Once this becomes more affordable, we’ll be able to offer headset-wearing clients even better experiences for exploring insights.


Voice activation is set to become a dominant interface between ourselves and brands and experiences. Crowd DNA’s Andy Crysell gathers up notes from our recent work in the field, exploring the barriers to overcome and the opportunities ahead…

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It isn’t so much a new thing, but voice activation – or voice computing – is certainly a fast gaining momentum thing. We know this because of the sales and media coverage of devices like Amazon Echo. But, as a business, we also know this as it’s a topic we’ve been asked to explore in several client briefs recently (that’s not something that would have happened much over a year ago).

Clearly there’s a huge opportunity here to create more frictionless and empathetic experiences – particularly in-home, at-work and in-(smart)car. Many of the experts we’ve been speaking to see it as a paradigm shift, something as revolutionary to our relationship with digital utility and entertainment as the rapid advancement of our mobiles was five to ten years ago.

As with most innovations of this kind, there’s a certain clunky-ness to it in its formative stages. Barriers stand in the way of true adoption. Recent data suggests 69% of Alexa’s 7,000 skills either have no reviews or just one review – this implies very low levels of adoption. Of those who enable a voice app on Google Assistant or Alexa, only three-per-cent are still active the week after. Moreover, we’re still to ascertain what kind of relationship we really want with a voice assistant – should it have a name; a gender; where does voice activation intersect with mood recognition and a deeper understanding of what’s on our mind?

Google Home
Google Home

Plenty of challenges, then. But the experts we’ve met believe that, once good use cases become popularised and eulogised, once the recognition process takes the necessary and inevitable steps forward, voice activation will gather pace quickly. They’ve spoken to us about how crazy it will soon look to be swiping away at a mobile. How we need to start comprehending the notion of invisible apps and invisible actions – the invisible interface, ultimately. That we should be ‘viewing’ voice computing as the next great platform.

What’s in it for media and for brands? A lot of our interviewees have spoken about untapping latent intent – all of the new things we will do, or things we currently do but will now do more abundantly – if we don’t have to reach for our phones, and if the cognitive load is reduced. The opportunity is there, they enthuse, for media and brands to be with us more often and more relevantly; to work towards seamless narratives that flow across devices and day parts.

So Nike tell us to ‘Just Do It’, and McDonald’s affirm ‘I’m Lovin’ It’, but how will they deliver against these messages on this emergent interface? Also fascinating is how a lot of the heavily used marketing maxims of recent times – the requisite for brands to have an authentic voice of their own; the need for brands to have a two-way conversation with consumers – will suddenly take on new and more direct meaning in the age of voice activation. Lots to think about – even more to talk about.

Part of InterFace, a series exploring – across digital and physical – how our touchpoints with brands are changing…



Looking Good!

From narrated galleries to 360° cameras, here's six ways to gather and share visual insights...

Visual communication is taking over the world. That goes for the world of insight, too. Our \Socialise team have put together this handy little guide to some of new and exciting ways to gather and share visual insights that we’ve been experimenting with at Crowd DNA. Find out more here


For the third episode of our Keeping Company series, looking at innovative and exciting businesses, we meet designer Laurie Nouchka, who creates art you can wear...

Keeping Company is Crowd DNA’s short film series, in which we search the world for inspiration from innovative, disruptive, culturally switched on and just plain unusual businesses.

This episode we meet Laurie Nouchka, an artist and designer whose vibrant, wearable artworks have taken the sportswear world by storm. Manufactured here in London, Laurie’s leggings take inspiration from the architecture of global cities. Legs become canvases for towers of glass and steel, rendered in vivid colour palettes and contemporary designs, all coming together to make dazzlingly unique, timeless pieces made for movement.

We talk about creative vision and the fine balance of maintaining your artistic integrity in the world of business.



The second instalment of Crowd DNA’s series on exciting and innovating businesses investigates bio-bean, a London-based clean technology company turning waste coffee grounds into energy…

Keeping Company is Crowd DNA’s short film series in which we search the world for inspiration from innovative, disruptive, culturally switched on and just plain unusual businesses.

This episode we chat to Arthur Kay, founder and CEO of bio-bean – the world’s first company to process waste coffee grounds into advanced biofuels on an industrial scale. In just two years, bio-bean has raised several-million pounds in financing and grown to a team of 25 people.

Based in London, with an industrial factory in Cambridgeshire, the company processes 50,000 tonnes of waste per year – equivalent to one in every ten cups of coffee consumed in the UK. Outputs include biodiesel, biomass pellets, and briquettes.

In the first of Crowd DNA’s new series on exciting and innovative businesses, we head to Rio De Janeiro and chat to Hamilton Henrique, founder of salad delivery service Saladorama

We’re excited to bring you the first episode of our new short film series, Keeping Company, which will see us searching the world for inspiration from innovative, disruptive, culturally switched on and just plain unusual businesses.

Our first episode introduces Saladorama – a salad delivery service based in Brazil. Founded in 2015 by Hamilton Henrique, it aims to democratise access to a balanced and quality diet – particularly among poorer communities. In just over a year, the business has grown to multiple locations and now serves 160,000 people.

Not only does Saladorama improve access to healthy eating, it also benefits local communities by generating employment, training residents, and providing much-needed experience. Enjoy!

The Industries Of The Future

Keen to look into the White House’s crystal ball, Crowd DNA associate director and trends writer Anna Chapman went to hear Alec Ross, former senior advisor for innovation, talk at the LSE Literary Festival...

Predicting the future can be a tricky business: you’re bound to get caught out. But that’s OK, says Alec Ross, because our future selves will be more forgiving of human errors. It’s a useful disclaimer for someone who’s promoting a book called The Industries Of The Future, inspired by his world travels as senior advisor on innovation to Hillary Clinton.

Ross believes that we’ll get used to the lack of privacy brought by the digital world and value the transparency coming in its place. Everyone will experience some sort of social media scandal, he says, but because we’re becoming more accepting, it won’t be such a big deal. Just look at how our attitudes to inhaling changed between Clinton and Obama’s presidency campaigns.

Being open isn’t only important to our future standpoint, it’s also key to a successful economy (bear in mind that Ross did spend four years in the White House). He thinks skilled workers will flood out of authoritarian countries. Soon the world won’t be carved up geographically into developed and developing, he says; instead we’ll be classifying markets as open and closed. Indonesia is somewhere he thinks will be successful for this reason.

So how can we future-proof ourselves for this open world? Ross believes that the key to Mark Zuckerberg’s success is that he’s a talented behavioural psychologist AND a computer scientist. He says we’ll need a similar combination of seemingly disparate skills, plus languages and the ability to code, so we can communicate in a data-driven global economy.

Controlling big data will be a big deal in the information age (like land was in the agricultural age or iron in the industrial). However, thanks to cloud robotics and AI, hard-working droids will provide cheap labour, stealing white-collar as well as blue-collar jobs. Ross’s dad is a lawyer in Hurricane, West Virginia, and he thinks a robot will be able to do his job in the next 10 years.

But it’s not all bad news for us soon-to-be unemployed humans – at least we’ll have our health. Ross predicts that the next trillion-dollar industry will be built on genetic code. He’s particularly optimistic about the commercialisation of genomics, despite ethical issues around designer babies and liquid biopsies (a blood test that can spot cancer cells before symptoms develop, 1/100th the size of anything than can picked up by an MRI scan).

If you’re interested in learning more about the innovations that Ross thinks are set to shape our lives, further topics are tackled in The Industries Of The Future. And remember if he’s got it wrong, he predicts that you’ll go easy on him.

Future Of Music Streaming

A few hastily assembled notes on the predictions offered at shesaid.so's very interesting roundtable on the future of streaming (sorry, it was early, didn’t catch the name of all of the roundtable guests)…

It’s not a battle. It’s time to stop thinking of physical product and digital/streaming in conflict with each other; the way forward will see more interesting ways of blending the two, and a greater understanding of how they can co-exist in a broader eco-system.

Playlists – they’re a big deal. Getting included on a Spotify ‘Your Morning Coffee’ playlist (or similar!) can have a previously unknown artist racking up plays at a supersonic rate. Playlists sustain track plays better than almost anything else. Bands, platforms and brands all need to be looking at new, increasingly innovative ways to make playlists stand out.

Niche services. Lots of predictions that people will be willing to pay, say, a fiver on top in future for more specialised streaming offerings – one dedicated to classical music, for instance – alongside their more standard monthly subscription.

Higher quality streams. While the offerings may not succeed (hello, Mr N Young) at the very least they spark new debate and keep the big players on their toes – as such, we need the outliers, those who can disrupt and challenge.

Direct from artist streaming services. It’s getting easier to do and the price of the tech is coming down. Expect to see some artists considering what they can do on their own.

Brands and streaming. Automobile and sports/fitness companies predicted to lead the way in terms of brands innovating in streaming-centric music partnerships.

Big challenge! Getting to a mindset where we cherish our playlists and saved tracks on streaming platforms in the way we once/still do cherish our record collections. Rather hard to picture but there’s people working on it…