Professor Colin Ellard about his research: I am interested in how the organization and appearance of natural and built spaces affects movement, wayfinding, emotion and physiology. My approach to these questions is strongly multidisciplinary and is informed by collaborations with architects, artists, planners, and health professionals. Current studies include investigations of the psychology of residential design, wayfinding at the urban scale, restorative effects of exposure to natural settings, and comparative studies of defensive responses. My research methods include both field investigations and studies of human behavior in immersive virtual environments.

Research Project Examples

Space syntax, virtual reality and architectural design: Behavioral studies

Faculty ResearcherDr. Colin Ellard, Dr. Thomas Seebohm
Student Researcher: Marc Hall
FundingSSHRC Research Development Initiative Grant

My current research focuses on the spatial properties that are around us.  Past research has determined that the spatial configuration of space, or how space is laid out, can influence how a person moves, perceives, or feels about a room or building. Furthermore, these influences have even been shown to take place in virtual environments.

The current study goes further and focuses on trying to understand how virtual reality technology can be used to enhance the architectural design process. We know that when people enter and explore buildings, they betray preferences for certain spaces by the amount of time they have spent in them. I am interested in finding out if the same thing is true in virtual buildings, and whether such preferences can also be related to the physiological responses related to stress and arousal.

Pilot Study: Effects of control mechanism on navigation behavior in virtual environments

Faculty Researcher: Dr. Colin Ellard
Student Researcher: Deltcho Valtchanov

The purpose of this pilot study is to examine the effects of two different control mechanisms on navigation behaviour in virtual environments. By doing this, we hope to find an effective way to allow people immersed in virtual reality to navigate throughout a virtual environment in a similar fashion to how they would navigate in the real-world. The main question is whether using pure joystick control to navigate throughout a virtual environment encourages similar navigation behavior in comparison to a control mechanism combining both position tracking and joystick control. A second question is whether the combination of both position tracking and joystick control reduces motion sickness and increases immersion when compared to pure joystick control.