Improving Virtual Environments

Although VEs are a useful tool for investigating human behaviors, there are important differences between VEs and the real world. Understanding and identifying these differences can help scientists better utilize VEs as an effective research tool while also helping to improve the technology and software. In immersive VEs often a person’s actions are limited or altered as a direct consequence of the interface.
 
For instance, experiments have determined that even within an immersive HMD-VE people walk differently compared to the real world (Mohler). These results suggest that increasing the vertical field of view of HMDs and decreasing the weight of HMDs is an important factor if real-world walking behavior is desirable. In addition, in a VE people rarely see representations of themselves or other people due to the technical difficulty in rendering and accurately animating human bodies in real time. With our large tracking hall and in-house developed software we have been able to investigate the influence of having a virtual representation of oneself (self-avatar) on egocentric distance perception (Mohler). We found that when an observer is able to see a self-avatar they judge egocentric distances more accurately compared to the underestimation of distance observed when a self-avatar is absent. Further, it was also shown that the articulation of the self-avatar and not the visual information provided by the first-person perspective of the body was the critical factor that helped improve distance perception. These results suggest that there is a benefit to rendering a self-avatar in immersive VEs.
Last updated: Friday, 05.10.2012