How real-world distractions affect the experience of immersive virtual reality systems

An image to illustrate how real-world distractions affect the experience of immersive virtual reality systems
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How do different levels of real-world distractions in immersive virtual reality systems affect user experience, recall and recognition of the encounter?

The new study published in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking found that the presence of real-world distractions in more immersive virtual reality systems has a surprising impact on the user’s experience of the VR encounter.

The role of reality in immersive virtual reality systems

The Editor-in-Chief Brenda K Wiederhold PhD, MBA, BCB, BCN, Interactive Media Institute, San Diego, California and Virtual Reality Medical Institute, Brussels, Belgium, commented: “This very important study highlights again the critical need to understand the role of realism during the VR experience. The clarity of the latest PlayStation characters, for example, or those seen in recently released movies and video clips begs the question of whether the uncanny valley has been overcome.”

In the study, participants interacted with a virtual agent in either a non-immersive or immersive virtual reality environment with three levels of real-world distractions:

  • No distractions;
  • Passive exposure to the sound of a ringing mobile phone; or
  • Actively answering a ringing mobile phone.

Although increased immersion had a positive effect on feeling present in the VR interaction, the recognition and recall of the experience was affected.

The importance of the research

Wiederhold added: “Despite over 20 years of research, we still do not fully understand how levels of realism can differentially affect human perception and the underlying psychological milieu. Many VR clinicians have shown that in certain cases, less granular or admittedly more cartoonish avatars and graphics produce better clinical outcomes. On the other hand, in certain types of surgical training, realistic VR is both justified and necessary. There remain many unanswered issues and a lack of good objective measures for our feeling of presence, and this paper plays a crucial role in furthering our knowledge.”

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