Does virtual reality aid in realistically testing the acceptance of new innovations? – A case study on the acceptance of air taxis

Innovations in the area of mobility often take years, sometimes decades, to become reality. Developing technologies over such long time spans is a risk, since it is unclear whether the public will accept the new technology, once available. This raises the question whether it is possible to evaluate the acceptance of a technology, which cannot yet be tested under real live conditions. Industry and researchers have come up with different solutions to this challenge, using descriptions, sometimes pictures and increasingly also videos and virtual reality demonstrations of the new technology.

Research question

So far it is not known whether these different methods of showcasing technology impact the factors that lead to acceptance or rejection of new technologies. In order to arrive at a more correct evaluation of the acceptance of a new technology, it is important to understand what effect the method of showcasing itself has on the user.

Method

The study design included a laboratory experiment with three independent groups, whereby each of the groups was presented the concept of air taxis either via a picture, video, or virtual reality (VR). First, participants were given an informative introduction to air taxis, whereupon they were randomly assigned one of the three forms of media referring to a flight between the German cities Bonn and Cologne (solely Bonn for the VR group). Participants then rated items in regards to the level of immersion, the importance of sustainability, innovativeness, and the acceptance factors intention to use, performance expectancy, effort expectancy, hedonic motivation, social influence, reliability and trust as well as experience with videogames (for picture and video groups) and VR. Ratings referred to a 1-7 Likert scale (completely disagree to completely agree).

Example screenshot of a VR air taxi flight

 

Descriptive statistics

In sum, 191 students (VR: 65, video: 64, picture: 62) took part in the study via Unipark, whereas the mean age of participants was 22 years (SD=2.63) and the majority (64 %) were female. While the respondents would pay 65 € on average for an occasional flight between Bonn and Cologne, they would pay 36 € for flights on a regular basis. In addition, most students had little to no knowledge about air taxis (87 %). The participants rated sustainable consumption as highly important (M=5.16, SD=1.16), but showed medium innovativeness (M=2.98, SD=0.9). Experience with VR was rather limited (M=2.03, SD=1.13) in comparison to experience students had with videogames (picture group: M=3.34, SD=1.3; video group: M=3.05, SD=1.36).

Key Findings

  • More than 75 % of respondents could imagine what it would be like to fly in an air taxi, while this perception was significantly more realistic for the VR group. Yet, the groups did not differ in their intention to use air taxis.
  • Most participants (61 %) reported that they plan on using air taxis in the future while approximately 70 % could imagine implementing them at least on a regular basis.
  • The type of media and the resulting perceived level of immersion led to higher hedonic motivation for the VR group compared to both other groups.
  • Respondents allocated to the VR group have more trust in automation than the other groups.
  • Overall, the acceptance factors effort expectancy, performance expectancy and social influence are significant predictors for the intention to use air taxis.
  • In regards to the VR presentation of air taxis, social influence and reliability were significant factors, whereas performance and effort expectancy were significant for both, the picture and video group.

Conclusion

As indicated by previous research [e. g., 1, 2], this study showed that immersion, or sense of presence is higher in a VR setting than other forms of media. Interestingly, there was no difference between the picture and video group, which lets us draw implications for practice independent from air taxis. For instance, it appears that marketing efforts undertaken by companies do not necessarily have to be more successful if video content is included besides pictures. In addition, as shown by other studies [3, 4], social influence plays an important role when it comes to VR. Yet, these studies rather focus on the social influence related to interaction solely between subjects in the virtual space. Hence, one of the group‘s next studies will spotlight the impact of different forms of media and social influence on the intention to use air taxis.

References

[1] Yung, R., Khoo-Lattimore, C., & Potter, L. E. (2021). VR the world: Experimenting with emotion and presence for tourism marketing. Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Management, 46(July 2020), 160–171. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhtm.2020.11.009

[2] Mostajeran, F., Krzikawski, J., Steinicke, F., & Kühn, S. (2021). Effects of exposure to immersive videos and photo slideshows of forest and urban environments. Scientific Reports, 11(1), 1–14. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-83277-y

[3] Hartl, E., & Berger, B. (2017). Escaping reality: Examining the role of presence and escapism in user adoption of virtual reality glasses. Proceedings of the 25th European Conference on Information Systems, ECIS 2017, 2017, 2413–2428.

[4] Shen, C. W., Ho, J. T., Luong, T. H., & Kuo, T. C. (2017). Behavioral intention of using virtual reality in learning. 26th International World Wide Web Conference 2017, WWW 2017 Companion, 129–137. https://doi.org/10.1145/3041021.3054152