Sense of presence in virtual reality: moderating role of human factors on performance
An international cotutelle PhD in Psychology - Cognitive Neurosciences
(University of Caen Normandy, CIREVE / ERLIS, University of Montreal, ARViPL).
- Virtual reality has emerged over the past two decades as a new paradigm for scientific research and applications, particularly in neuroscience, behavioural sciences and psychotherapy (Gregg & Tarrier, 2007; Foreman, 2010; Scozzari & Gamberini, 2011). This technology, and its ability to simulate complex custom-made situations, offers researchers the ability to study behaviour in controlled and customized environments called in virtuo studies. Virtual environments allow the subject to interact with a digital simulation via a set of computer techniques covering one or more sensory systems (vision, touch, hearing, vestibule...) that will overlap the subject's natural senses to create an artificial multisensory filter. This filter, coupled with the immersive qualities of the interface such as stereoscopic vision, spatialized sound or head tracking, allow the emergence of a sense of presence, the feeling of being "there" in the virtual environment (Heeter, 1992; Sheridan, 1992).
- This sense of presence is at the heart of virtual reality: it is this phenomenon that will allow the subject to feel "as if he were there" and therefore allow the researcher to observe his behaviour "as if he were there". This feeling of presence, a subjective consequence of technical immersion, makes it possible to add the ecological dimension, long forgotten in the study of laboratory behaviour. The emergence and maintenance of a sense of presence has been recognized as an essential part of the development of virtual environments since its inception, and the use of virtual reality in scientific research is no exception to this rule. Indeed, the ultimate goal of virtual reality in behavioural research is to make the technical interface of simulation completely invisible to the subject in order to provoke a feeling of optimal presence and thus to observe a behaviour as close as possible to the spontaneous behaviour for a given situation. Today, the concept of a sense of presence brings together the many and very different actors of virtual reality, from computer engineers to psychologists and therapists, as well as movement, perception or cognition specialists.
- But while more than twenty years of research on this sense of presence has taught us a great deal about the phenomenon, for example, about the most appropriate immersive factors for its emergence or the different ways of measuring it, our overall understanding of presence remains very limited. This research work is part of this exploratory framework and aims to advance the emergence of a body of knowledge on the concept of presence and more broadly to develop a methodological framework for all researchers and actors of virtual reality. In this context, our research proposes to examine a central and unanswered question about the feeling of presence: this question, raised at the dawn of virtual reality, addresses the relationship between the presence of a subject and his/her performance in virtuo. Will a more present subject necessarily perform better in a virtual task than a less present one? Whether it is for the purpose of diagnosing or investigating human behaviour, this question is absolutely fundamental: if presence promotes performance, for example performance in a neuropsychological test, it becomes a systematic bias inherent in the tool that must be controlled for any rigorous virtual experiment.
- If this question has remained very little studied in the literature, despite its serious fundamental and methodological consequences, it is partly because of the difficulty in defining and quantifying the relationship since a lot of other variables (sex, cognitive style, susceptibility to cybersickness, video games experience) are suspected to play a role in the relationship. Thus, this research project proposes to analyze the dyadic relationship between presence and performance inside a more gobal model incorporating these human factors. Four experiments following the same framework and allowing these shadow areas to be illuminated will be carried out: different forms of in virtuo performance will be evaluated (performance on a neuropsychological test of executive functions, performance on a spatial orientation test and performance on a semantic memory school test) while measuring the different factors described. Experimental studies and factor analyses will make it possible to identify the impact of each factor, while at the same time drawing a theoretical model of human factors and virtual reality performance.
- The results of this thesis allowed the development of the theoretical model of the Phi Angle, which proposes an understanding of the interactions between human factors, system factors and performance, as well as PhiVR, a software designed to evaluate the immersive capabilities of a system, the cognitive profile of an individual and thus to predict his experience in virtual reality. Each study will be more precisely detailed on this website when published.
- The Wisconsin Card Sorting Test is an implementation of the traditional WCST (Berg, 1948) for virtual reality head mounted displays and CAVEs made at CIREVE. The WCST is considered a global measure of executive function, including a high sensitivity to frontal lobe dysfunction (Milner, 1963; Lange et al., 2018).
- All the mechanisms of the paper-and-pencil neuropsychological test are respected: the subjects are immersed in a Far West American type environment built for the purpose of the experiment. They are seated on a moving cart and must respond to the test by manipulating a virtual laser via the controllers. The target and initial cards appear on the back of another moving cart. The environment consists of five large immersive areas all incorporating spatialized sound: a city, a river, a gold mine, a meadow, and a bandit village. Performance is calculated based on the total number of tries, the number of tries to find the first rule, and the number of errors made.
- The virtual reality passation of 50 participants was compared to the paper-and-pencil traditionnal passation on 50 participants. Statistical analysis were made 1) to compare the performance between genders and groups and 2) to evaluate how performance differed between participants in the virtual modality group depending on human factors: gender, cybersickness, cognitive style, video game experience.
Authors: A. Maneuvrier, H. Ceyte, P. Renaud, R. Morello, P. Fleury, L. Decker.
- In the case of spatial cognition, the virtual reality tool allows the analysis of different orientation and learning mechanisms, while maintaining experimental control of laboratory studies and the ecological validity of in situ studies (Parsons, 2015; Parsons et al., 2017; Da Costa et al., 2018).
- In this protocol the participants had to follow a marked itinerary in a virtual environment mixing different buildings of Ancient Rome. At the end of their itinerary, they had to answer (always in immersion) a series of questions designed to evaluate their learning: for instance they have to say if they turned left or right in front of this or that piece of scenery, to say whether the element presented to them in the photo was really present on the itinerary, or to place photos or videos of the route on a continuum between the beginning and the end of the itinerary, etc. Following these questions, the participants were put back to the beginning of the environment and they were asked to complete the itinerary again, but this time without the markers to guide them.
- Virtual reality allows the measurement of many behavioural variables that are important for the study of cognition and spatial navigation: the participant's continuous precise position, the number of errors he makes, his speed in completing the route, etc. Since navigation is done by teleported jumps via controllers, it does not generate any cybersickness.
Paper published in Frontiers in Virtual Reality (2020).
Authors: A. Maneuvrier, H. Ceyte, L. Decker, P. Fleury, P. Renaud
- The impact that virtual reality has on an individual's perception is still unclear. The purpose of this study called Nav(i)r is to investigate the effect of a virtual immersion on the cognitive style (field dependence) of a participant. Indeed, field dependence is strongly related to cybersickness, as more field dependent persons experience more negative symptoms. The question here is then to measure field dependence before and after an immersion in order to evaluate the effect that virtual reality has on this cognitive style. It is indeed possible that participants recalibrate their sensorial integration to reduce the weight of visual (non-pertinent) stimuli in order to prevent the emergence of negative symptoms.
- The protocol was similar to the one of Spatiopresence, but spatial cognition was not the purpose of the study. The aim was to evaluate if the evolution of field dependence might be related to cybersickness and sense of presence, and if some human factors like the video game experience can help predicting this reaction. This investigation could bring a better understanding of the interaction between human factors and system factors, but also a better fondamental comprehension of perception and sensorial integration.
Paper published in Frontiers in Virtual Reality (2021).
Authors: A. Maneuvrier, L.Decker, P. Renaud, P. Fleury, H. Ceyte
- This study proposes to study the impact of different human factors on information retention performance in a classical pedagogical virtual reality learning test. Its objectives are to understand whether certain individuals benefit more from the technology, and in particular to see if there are differences in performance according to the level of presence of the participants (Heeter, 1992; Sheridan, 1992). Since the pedagogical use of virtual reality is developing rapidly, whether for the presentation of missing content as in the case of the Plan of Rome Visits or learning in extreme or dangerous situations, it is fundamental to understand the factors that can influence in virtuo learning.
- This protocol used a large screen with active stereoscopy. Stereoscopic display is an important part of virtual reality since it allows the perception of objects floating in front of the screen and the dept perception. But when used on a large scale (70 participants in this protocol), the effect that the distance from the stereoscopic reference might have on participants perception is unknown. Thus, the distance of each participant to this reference point was incorporated into the factorial analysis.
- This study provides discussions and reflections on the applications of virtual realty learning environments and promotes them as pedagogical reference tools, particularly in the cultural heritage field.
Paper in preparation.
Authors: A. Maneuvrier, K. Sammour, B. Verjut, P. Renaud, P. Fleury
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