min read

Can virtual interactions replace “being there”?

by Amanda Martin , 25.02.2016

Nearly a quarter of the online population across 22 countries believes that virtual interactions with people and places can be as good as being there in person.

Opportunities for virtual interactions are increasingly common in daily life – be it video-conferencing at work, ‘face-timing’ or instant chat via a smartphone, or exploring cities, restaurants or museums using Google Street view or 3D-Panorama. But can virtual interactions with people and places ever be as good as being there in person?

We put this question to internet users across 22 countries - and 23 percent firmly agree it can be as good, compared to 15 percent who firmly disagree[1].

Teenagers beaten by twenty-and-thirty-somethings as most ‘virtually minded’

It might be expected that teenagers would have the highest numbers who believe that virtual interaction can rival in-person – but not so.

That title rests with people in their twenties and thirties, with well over one in four in firm agreement, putting them comfortably ahead of teenagers, with just over one in five. Unsurprisingly, agreement falls off rapidly amongst older generations, dropping to just over one in ten for those aged 50 and over.

Brazil and Turkey are most ‘vitually minded’

In Brazil and Turkey, a third of the online population believe virtual interactions can be as good as being there in person. This is followed by Mexico, China and Russia, which all show a quarter agreeing with that statement.

The other end of the scale is held by Germany, where nearly a third firmly disagree that virtual interactions can be as good as in-person. They are joined by Sweden (29 percent) and the Czech Republic and Belgium (just over a quarter each).

The ‘so what?’ for businesses

Virtual or augmented reality offers potential for almost any business. Travel agents are already using virtual reality visors to allow potential holiday makers to ‘see’ different destinations before making their holiday decision. And video conferencing is universally accepted as an effective channel for ‘face to face’ meetings, whist also reducing travel costs.

In particular, we predict the gaming industry will see early consumer adoption of virtual reality, since hard-core gamers are more likely to overcome the barrier of the high initial price of virtual reality hardware. For example – in the VG console and PC gamer segment, our forecast data points to nearly two million head-mounted display (HMD) users in Western Europe by the end of 2018. Longer term there may be larger potential within the mobile space but that has some unique safety and consumer behaviour challenges while mass market adoption depends on how pricing evolves.

In all of these applications for virtual reality, knowing which markets and consumer segments are most accepting of virtual interactions is an essential starting point.


Download the findings for all 22-countries

For more information contact me at amanda.martin@gfk.com.


[1]Top two / bottom two box responses from a 7-point scale where "1" means "disagree strongly" and "7" means "agree strongly.

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