Can people not tell left from right in VR? Point-to-origin studies revealed qualitative errors in visual path integration

  • Riecke B
  • Wiener J
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Even in state-of-the-art virtual reality (VR) setups, participants often feel lost when navigating through virtual environments. In psychological experiments, such disorientation is often compensated for by extensive training. The current study investigated participants' sense of direction by means of a rapid point-to-origin task without any training or performance feedback. This allowed us to study participants' intuitive spatial orientation in VR while minimizing the influence of higher cognitive abilities and compensatory strategies. After visually displayed passive excursions along one-or two-segment trajectories, participants were asked to point back to the origin of locomotion "as accurately and quickly as possible". Despite using a high-quality video projection with a 84deg times 63deg field of view, participants' overall performance was rather poor. Moreover, six of the 16 participants exhibited striking qualitative errors, i.e., consistent left-right confusions that have not been observed in comparable real world experiments. Taken together, this study suggests that even an immersive high-quality video projection system is not necessarily sufficient for enabling natural spatial orientation in VR. We propose that a rapid point-to-origin paradigm can be a useful tool for evaluating and improving the effectiveness of VR setups in terms of enabling natural and unencumbered spatial orientation and performance.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Ego-motion simulation
  • Human factors
  • Navigation
  • Point-to-origin
  • Psychophysics
  • Spatial orientation
  • Spatial updating
  • Triangle completion
  • Virtual Reality

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