client: Simon Fraser University, iSpace Lab
research field: Spatial Cognition
equipment used: WorldViz Vizard Virtual Reality Software Toolkit, VR headsets, Polhemus Liberty Motion Tracking System and QuikMap
Cognitive Psychology and Spatial Processing
When users attempt to navigate in virtual reality, it is fairly common for them to become disoriented and unable to navigate their environment effectively. This is especially true for first-time users that are not used to moving an avatar with a control stick. This is because there is typically no haptic feedback and no motion cues that physically indicate a user’s point in space. In this study, Daniel and his colleagues investigated how physical motion cues contribute to spatial updating in a realistic and highly structured virtual environment, using a rapid point-to-origin paradigm without performance feedback. To test this, participants followed a curved street in the virtual environment. Half of the participants were seated in a static chair, and the other half were seated in a mechanical rotating chair that physically imitated their movements. The results showed that physical motion cues may not be necessary in such a detailed environment. When the researchers tested this with a less detailed environment, some participants resorted to real-time mental updating of their direction (identical to how humans in general process grounded reality) and were dubbed “Turners”, while other participants relied on cognitively demanding strategies that took place after-the-fact and were dubbed “Non-Turners”.
Virtual Reality systems can take a variety of different inputs, with joystick navigation and 1:1 movement controls (i.e. movement from grounded reality is translated into virtual reality on a 1:1 scale) being the most popular. In this experiment, participants either used a joystick or 1:1 movement controls to perform tasks associated with navigation, as well as the rotation and translation of objects. Prior studies had suggested that using 1:1 movement controls was more effective than using a joystick for all three tasks. Daniel and his colleagues reinforced these previous results with regards to movement, showing that navigation with the 1:1 controls was more efficient. However, the results of this study also showed that using the joystick for translation along with the 1:1 movement for rotation was about as effective as using 1:1 for both tasks. From this outcome, Daniel and his colleagues concluded that using a combination of a joystick and 1:1 movement controls could lead to more cost-effective virtual reality solutions without sacrificing effectiveness.