An experimental study on the role of touch in shared virtual environments

  • Basdogan C
  • Chih-Hao H
  • Mandayam A
 et al. 
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Investigating virtual environments has become an increasingly interesting research topic for engineers, computer and cognitive scientists, and psychologists. Although there have been several recent studies focused on the development of multimodal virtual environments (VEs) to study human-machine interactions, less attention has been paid to human-human and human-machine interactions in shared virtual environments (SVEs), and to our knowledge, no attention paid at all to what extent the addition of haptic communication between people would contribute to the shared experience. We have developed a multimodal shared virtual environment and performed a set of experiments with human subjects to study the role of haptic feedback in collaborative tasks and whether haptic communication through force feedback can facilitate a sense of being and collaborating with a remote partner. The study concerns a scenario where two participants at remote sites must co-operate to perform a joint task in a SVE. The goals of the study are (1) to assess the impact of force feedback on task performance, (2) to better understand the role of haptic communication in human-human interactions, (3) to study the impact of touch on the subjective sense of collaborating with a human as reported by the participants based on what they could see and feel, and (4) to investigate if gender, personality, or emotional experiences of users can affect haptic communication in SVEs. The outcomes of this research can have a powerful impact on the development of next generation human-computer interfaces and network protocols that integrate touch and force feedback technology into the Internet, development of protocols and techniques for collaborative teleoperation such as hazardous material removal, space station repair, and remote surgery, and enhancement of virtual environments for performing collaborative tasks in shared virtual worlds on a daily basis such as co-operative teaching, training, planning and design, cybergames, and social gatherings. Our results suggest that haptic feedback significantly improves the task performance and contributes to the feeling of ‘sense of togetherness’ in SVEs. In addition, the results show that the experience of visual feedback only at first, and then subsequently visual plus haptic feedback elicits a better performance than presentation of visual plus haptic feedback first followed by visual feedback only.

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  • Cagatay Basdogan

  • Ho Chih-Hao

  • a Srinivasan Mandayam

  • Slater Mel

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