“Walking > walking-in-place > flying, in virtual environments” by Usoh, Arthur, Whitton, Bastos, Steed, et al. …

  • ©Martin Usoh, Kevin Arthur, Mary C. Whitton, Rui Bastos, Anthony Steed, Mel Slater, and Frederick (Fred) P. Brooks Jr.




    Walking > walking-in-place > flying, in virtual environments



    A study by Slater, et al., [1995] indicated that naive subjects in an immersive virtual environment experience a higher subjective sense of presence when they locomote by walking-in-place (virtual walking) than when they push-button-fly (along the floor plane). We replicated their study, adding real walking as a third condition. Our study confirmed their findings. We also found that real walking is significantly better than both virtual walking and flying in ease (simplicity, straightforwardness, naturalness) as a mode of locomotion. The greatest difference in subjective presence was between flyers and both kinds of walkers. In addition, subjective presence was higher for real walkers than virtual walkers, but the difference was statistically significant only in some models. Follow-on studies show virtual walking can be substantially improved by detecting footfalls with a head accelerometer. As in the Slater study, subjective presence significantly correlated with subjects’ degree of association with their virtual bodies (avatars). This, our strongest statistical result, suggests that substantial potential presence gains can be had from tracking all limbs and customizing avatar appearance. An unexpected by-product was that real walking through our enhanced version of Slater’s visual-cliff virtual environment (Figure 1) yielded a strikingly compelling virtual experience—the strongest we and most of our visitors have yet experienced. The most needed system improvement is the substitution of wireless technology for all links to the user.

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