Spatial Reasoning, Learning, and Locomotion in Virtual Environments

How people reason, learn, and move in virtual environments

Project Description

Our work develops design principles for immersion that allow environments where people can actively explore and guide their own learning. Most important applications of virtual environments assume that what people learn from exploring virtual simulations of physical environments is functionally similar to what they learn from exploring the physical environments themselves. Understanding these similarities or differences is important: when constructing learning environments, we want either to correct differences or exploit them. We have demonstrated such functional similarities in subjects' access to spatial knowledge between real and virtual environments, as well as dissimilarities in the perception of distance between real and virtual environments.

Related work posits that while current immersive virtual environments are expensive, that head-mounted display technology may become widely affordable in the near future. A significant problem for the widespread adoption of virtual environments that enable people to actively explore them will then be the problem of space. Having large areas suitable for active exploration of a large virtual environment will not be practical and commodity-level virtual environment equipment will need to be placed in small rooms. The important issue my work has addressed is how subjects can explore large environments on foot when physical space is constrained. The qualification ``on foot'' is critical as we have shown that using a joystick is inferior to foot exploration, and devices such as treadmills are expensive. Our solution works by manipulating the translational and rotational gain of movement so that the virtual environment affords cognitively-friendly exploration.


Students and Collaborators

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Bobby Bodenheimer