Doing UX Research for Immersive Tech

My Role: UX Research Assistant

Researching VR user experiences demands tech troubleshooting, an adaptable approach and solid data capture methods.

Photo: Erin Li,


Project type: User experience (UX) and usability research for VR/AR/MR devices

Team: Research Lead, 3-4 UX Researchers, Stakeholder UXRs and TechOps Team

Date: 5 studies spanning June 2022 to May 2023

Skills: Observation, note taking, backup moderation, participant coordination, data analysis and synthesis, report writing

Methods: 1:1 interviews, task-based usability evaluations, focus groups, surveys, observational KPIs

Tools: Google suite, Teams, Condens

I joined several Spatial R+D teams over the past year to assist on multiple UX and Usability Research studies for Immersive technologies (VR/AR/MR devices and apps), including:

3 large scale, multi-round, in-lab studies investigating unboxing, device usability and comfort and user experience (both evaluative and generative).

1 large scale on-site device comfort and fit study involving 1:1 structured interviews and surveys.

2 remote studies involving 1:1 semi-structured interviews investigating self-governance practices, behaviours and attitudes in virtual communities (+ follow-up focus groups) and users’ avatar design preferences.

The study deliverables included reports, quantitative survey results and observational KPIs.

My direct contributions:

  • Participate in pilot sessions to inform study improvement
  • Observe study sessions and capture notes in spreadsheet, record observational KPIs
  • Alternate moderator on 1:1 interviews on device fit and comfort (surveys) 
  • Collaborative qualitative data analysis and synthesis
  • Report writing contributor on Topline and Final Reports
  • Backup/support moderators, provide positive participant experiences 
A man wearing a VR headset looking down at his hands holding the controllers.

Photo: Mikhail Nilhov,

This case study briefly covers my experience as a UX researcher on immersive tech studies. For a summary of the study results, Spatial R+D’s insightful article, Three things XR users really want is a must-read.  


The studies involved considerable technical coordination and troubleshooting (for both the devices and the research operations).

The team masterfully managed this aspect of the study by troubleshooting with the tech teams, prioritizing goals, and planning for uncertain/ambiguous outcomes.

Running a successful Immersive Tech study demands an adaptable approach with realistic expectations of operations time, delays and possibilities.

Looking down on hands holding VR controllers next to a VR headset resting on the counter.

Photo: Polina Tankilevi,


The study tasks are often complex and interactions happen rapidly. As an observer, this makes it tricky to keep up, capture and describe the important moments. 


A thorough understanding of the study guide and user interface prior to the sessions reduces confusion and minterpretations.

Reviewing and cleaning up notes during breaks is a productive way to use down time between sessions and avoids time-consuming video/transcription reviews.

Developing shorthand/codes, use time-stamping and flag standout moments that can be quickly accessed during synthesis and reporting.

Making time for a debrief after each interview to capture initial thoughts, surprises and to clarify any doubts.

A video review of sessions at the end of day one helps to gain clarity on tasks, user paths and interactions


Solid camera, audio and screen casting setup is imperative for capturing physical and digital interactions and documenting data. Immersive tech studies are complex: video, audio and transcripts review is inevitable, and necessary, for communicating key insights to stakeholders.

Find tricks for efficient notetaking to avoid time-consuming data reviews and budget in extra time for media setup and review.

“Misinterpretations in the moment are inevitable, so you need proper documentation to resolve it later.”

Steve Portigal, Interviewing Users

A participant sitting at a desk looking through a VR headset with her hands held up to adjust the lenses, and an image of what she sees creencast to a computer display in the background.

Photo: Jeshoots,

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Building VR into your products and services? In need of a UX Researcher or Designer?  I'm currently taking on new projects and would love to tell you more about my experience and discuss how we might work together.