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Facebook Fellow Spotlight: Pushing the boundaries of immersive experiences with augmented reality

Each year, PhD students from around the world apply for the Facebook Fellowship, a program designed to encourage and support promising doctoral students who are engaged in innovative and relevant research in areas related to computer science and engineering. Fellowship recipients receive tuition funding for up to two years to conduct their research at their respective universities, independently of Facebook. To learn about award details, eligibility, and more, visit the program page below.

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As part of our Fellowship spotlight series, we’re highlighting 2020 Facebook Fellow Bill Fritz.

Bill is a fourth-year PhD candidate in marketing at the University of Oxford, where he is a member of Saïd Business School and Green Templeton College. His dissertation is supervised by Andrew Stephen and Rhonda Hadi, and his research focuses on the impact of immersive technologies on consumer behavior.

At first glance, Bill’s field of study may seem unique among Facebook Fellows. He himself acknowledges that his path to a PhD was fairly untraditional. While studying for an undergraduate prelaw degree, Bill took some courses on alternative dispute resolution that piqued his curiosity.

“The courses really opened my eyes to alternative paths to helping people resolve their problems outside of court,” he says. “I realized that understanding how and why people do the things they do gives us an opportunity to help them reach a resolution, which could improve their lives.”

This interest in human behavior led him to become a research fellow at a New York startup focused on improving the effectiveness of charitable giving. “My work at the startup showed me the intersection of tech and human behavior,” he recalls. “How we can use technology to complement behavior and leverage tech to do good.”

At its core, that is what Bill’s research is all about: exploring how immersive technologies influence consumer behavior, and using that knowledge as a means for social improvement. That led him to complete a master’s degree in negotiation and conflict resolution and carry his interest forward to a PhD.

“I considered many different types of PhD programs, but ultimately decided that one in marketing, focusing on consumer behavior, would be the perfect match for what I was passionate about,” he says. “It really was a full circle moment — studying consumer behavior allows me to use my creative, investigative, experiential, and problem-solving skills to help better understand why people behave and make the judgments that they do, and to consider technological interventions that can be used to improve people’s lives.”

Through the Facebook Research Fellowship, Bill is furthering his research on consumer behavior in connection with major brands like Facebook, KitKat, and Perrier. His current work focuses on immersive marketing — specifically, exploring how immersive technologies such as AR and VR can influence behavior through the use of spatial audio anchored to a digital artifact.

Says Bill, “I found myself asking, ‘How can we create value and influence with this work? How can we contribute to marketing?’” The answers to those questions put his research at the forefront of his field as he investigates how spatial audio can be used to create more natural, intimate immersive experiences.

To learn more about Bill Fritz and his research, visit his Fellowship profile.

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