1  Tokyo-based 3Di has a new client to announce this week. The Japanese marketing firm Do House, Inc., plans to use 3Di's OpenSim virtual world technology for conducting consumer research through avatar-based "virtual group interviews." Specific topics Do House intends to research through its virtual group interviews will include medical products, topics "for which real-life conversation might be inhibited," topics involving groups from specific regions, and to support home-use product testing.

Do House wants to use virtual settings for this sort of consumer research to make gathering participants easier and to remove the difficulties associated with finding real-world venues. Unlike other methods of bringing together distant participants in a conversation, though, the use of avatars in a virtual world can convey a sense of presence. Do House hopes this will make the participants in the research interviews more animated and willing to talk. 

Perhaps most importantly, Do House thinks that participants in the interviews are less likely to modify their responses based on peer pressure or a sense of fulfilling the interviewer's expectations if the venue is virtual. The participant will become somewhat anonymous, with the avatar acting as a "mask," and so may express their opinions more honestly. This factor would likely be less important to a US-based research firm, as American consumers generally more outspoken. 

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