Virtual Reality versus TV

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Grounded in media richness theory, this study examined whether different types of technology (TV and VR) impact users’ empathy, engagement, enjoyment, and usage intentions. The study was conducted in Nigeria (n = 50) and the US (n = 51) using an experimental design. Participants watched an animated documentary titled “Is Anna OK?” at two time points, each time using a different device (i.e., Oculus Rift S and TV). Participants completed an online survey to measure empathy (α = 0.92), engagement (α = 0.93), enjoyment (α = 0.92), and usage intentions (α = 0.92) immediately after watching the documentary. A one-way ANOVA was used to examine the effects of technology type on the level of participants’ empathy, engagement, enjoyment, and intentions. The study revealed no significant difference in empathy between the TV and VR groups on Day 1 for both Nigerian and US participants. However, on Day 2, the VR group showed significantly higher empathy levels for both samples. Both the Nigerian and US participants who watched the documentary using a VR headset reported slightly higher levels of engagement and intentions than those who used a TV on Day 1, with more pronounced differences on Day 2. Nigerian participants who watched the documentary on TV reported higher levels of enjoyment on Day 1, while the VR group showed higher levels on Day 2. US participants showed a higher level of enjoyment for the VR group on both Day 1 and Day 2. The implications of these findings are discussed.