Heading ‘into the wild’ for guerilla research on emerging tech

The OAUX Emerging Technologies team, or The AppsLab, researches technical innovations coming down the pipeline. Part of our goal is to assess the potential of the technology – is it easy to adopt? Are there use cases that might make work easier for enterprise employees to complete their tasks?

Our research on emerging technologies finds three ways to enhance the user experience: Automate tasks to increase efficiency, advise customers on the best practices based on their business context and objectives, and discover actionable use cases.

Oracle invests in such research because it helps determine the direction of the Oracle Cloud Applications user experience. We are always looking for new ways to improve the delightfulness of our overall user experience on multiple levels. New technologies can be a part of that, by allowing us to be more efficient and just by being fun to use.

Anthony Lai shows customers at an Oracle HQ lab tour how we explore and test capabilities of the MUSE, a brain-sensing headband.


It can be easy to become enamored with the novelty of new technologies and forget who the technology is supposed to help and IF it can help. This is why our team’s mantra is to focus on the user, not the technology, and why we take user feedback on new and emerging technology seriously.

Now – here is the problem.

A majority of our customers do not own the latest wearable or smart home device. It’s difficult to interview end-users about how they might use a technology that they may not completely understand. They may not be familiar with it at all.

As Bill Moggridge, co-founder of design company IDEO and an outspoken advocate for the value of design in everyday life, said, “The only way to experience an experience is to experience it.”

To solve this gap, the AppsLab procures technological innovations as they get released and brings them directly to Oracle customers at conferences for spontaneous feedback. We call this guerilla research. This is where we:

  1. Approach customers “in the wild.”
  2. Ask a few questions about the technology.
  3. Give them a few tasks to perform.
  4. Observe their interactions.
  5. Ask about their experiences.

When the Samsung Gear VR was released, the AppsLab took VR to Oracle customers and conference participants in different cities to gather diverse and quick feedback. Not only was the experience immersive, participants loved how they could safely confront their fears of water and heights. That finding opened doors for virtual training in dangerous work situations.

It is a fast and low-cost method to gain sufficient insights for informed decisions.  In the past we have performed guerilla research on the Apple WatchSamsung’s Virtual Reality Headset, our version of the Smart Office, and chatbots. With this tactic, we may talk to up to 40 customers at a time.

What have we learned?

Through guerilla research we found that, surprisingly, VR isn’t as nauseating to experience as we originally thought! And, not surprisingly, chatbot humor doesn’t translate well from region to region.

Feedback —good or bad— is a gift. Through our research, we have exposed use cases that will improve accessibility as well as productivity for employees such as warehouse workers and sales. We’ve started conversations around HR and security concerns that Oracle should address if the company moves forward with certain new technologies in mind.

Ultimately, we aim to inspire our customers and partners to think about the future of work and how to introduce new technologies into their organizations. We want them to walk away and think, “Gee, I can’t imagine a future without this!”

A customer’s jaw dropped in awe when he finished navigating a Sphero ball through a maze using his brain waves.

Guerilla research is one of the many research techniques in our usability toolkit. Bringing emerging technologies to our customers and performing direct research with them is more valuable than designing with assumptions about the future. That is an ongoing pillar of Oracle’s cloud UX strategy: We focus on the user, not the technology.


The OAUX Emerging Technologies team also posts on Oracle Applications User Experience blog.

For more information about how we fit into Oracle’s cloud user experience research and design work, explore the Emerging Technologies page.