A number of investigators have reported that distance judgments in virtual environments (VEs) are systematically smaller than distance judgments made in comparably-sized real environments. Many variables that may contribute to this difference have been investigated but none of them fully explain the distance compression. In this paper we asked whether seeing a fully-articulated visual representation of oneself (avatar) within a virtual environment would lead to more accurate estimations of distance. We found that participants who explored near space without the visual avatar underestimated egocentric distance judgments compared to those who similarly explored near space while viewing a fully-articulated avatar. These results are discussed with respect to the perceptual and cognitive mechanisms that may be involved in the observed effects as well as the benefits of visual feedback in the form of an avatar for VE applications.
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