Nataly V. Averbukh , Alexandr A. Scherbinin

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Nataly V. Averbukh
, Alexandr A. Scherbinin

Psychological Aspects of Virtual Environment Use


This paper is devoted to psychological issues resulting from virtual
environment use. Phenomena of presence and immersion in/to virtual environments
e a subject of psychology studies, at the same time they are extremely important
from positions of computer visualization. The goal of our research is to identify
factors affecting users' abilities to interpret computer visualization in virtual
s. The experiment based on Kohs Block Design Test was designed and
conducted. The influence of this phenomenon on a user's performance is considered.

Keywords: Presence, virtual reality, visualization.


The presence phenomenon was described a
s perceptional illusion of
immediacy or, otherwise, “sense of being there”, ignoring the computer as
intermediary between a person and the world it interacts with. The immersion is
described as the phenomenon when user sense organs process the objects and
of the virtual environment, instead of stimuli coming from the real world. The same
way one can describe involvement phenomenon that, as well as immersion, is defined
as a component of presence. The involvement is the degree at which thinking,
ntion, imagination and others cognitive processes are concentrated on virtual
reality. Presence, uniting both states, is, naturally, something more than the simple
sum of their parts. Presence in the virtual environment cannot be compared to the
usual pers
on state in the real world environment, it is a unique state of consciousness.

The goal of our research is to study a presence state, evaluate a degree of its


Russian State Vocational Pedagogical University Russian Federation, Yekaterinburg


Ural State University Russian Federation, Yekaterinburg

influence on users' performance, and also to understand, whether work in a virtual
reality give
s any advantages to computer visualization systems users over
contemporart computer desktop

or disadvanages, by distracting them with new
sensations and unusual states.

Researches on presence in VR started in 90
s, that is from the very beginning
of use
of virtual reality environments [2]. The questionnaire based on definition of
presence was developed in [3] by B.G. Witmer and M. J. Singer. We actively used this
questionnaire in our research. Also the problems of presence and its detection were

in [4], [5].


The study reported here is based on a computer counterpart of the intellectual
test known as “Kohs Block Design Test”. Test subjects (university students, post
graduate students and tutors in computer science) were to manipulate m
cubes to match target patterns. This test measures reasoning, problem solving, and
spatial visualization skills. The experimental group was using binocular head
mounted display (HMD) supporting resolution 800*600 pixels as a display, the
ol group used traditional desktop screen. (In [6] the research was described
where the analog of “Kohs Block Design Test” was used for examination of the
effects of incorporating real objects into virtual environments.)

In our study 39 subjects underwent t
ests in the HMD, and 35 subjects on the
desktop screen. During experiment correctness of solution and completion time were
measured, we also made observations of participant's actions. After experiment they
have given subjective reports.

The main questions

were how virtual reality environments influenced on
subjects' efficiency; if they have experienced a presence state during the test, and, if
so, what influence did it have on their performance.


Researches did not reveal any influence of virtual
reality on solution time.
There was no significant difference between decision time when subjects used HMD
or standard desktop screen, yet, there was difference between error rate.

The tenth task was much more difficult than the others because the exhibit
turned 45 degrees clockwise, hence the subjects had to make an imaginary rotation.

Thus during performance of simple tasks subjects using desktop screen made
less mistakes, than subjects using HMD. When performing complex tasks subjects
using desktop s
creen made mistakes, but subjects using HMD did not. One possible
explanation is carelessness in performing simple tasks. Subjects working with HMD
for the first time were distracted by it. But complex tasks require concentration, and
HMD helps with unders
tanding them.

By means of the subjective report we have revealed that some test subjects
experienced state of presence. Fifteen participants reported that they felt “being
there”, in the same environment with the cubes. Experimental findings of these
ects were compared to findings of subjects who repored, that they worked with
the virtual reality in the same way, as with any other computer environment. No
significant difference was found between solution time of the subjects who have
experienced presen
ce and those subjects that did not. In each case experience of
presence affected subject behavior. One can conclude that, at least, in certain cases
presence does not influence mental performance [7].

In future work, we hope to study fully influence of ps
ychological phenomena
on efficiency of intellectual activity within the framework of visualization systems.


1. Reed D., Scullin W., Tavera L., Shields K., Elford Ch. Virtual Reality and Parallel
Systems Performance Analysis // IEEE Computer, V.
28, N 11, (November 1995) pp.

2. Steuer, J. (1992). Defining virtual reality: dimensions determining telepresence.
Journal of Communication: Autumn 1992; 42(4), 73


3. Witmer B.G., Singer M.J. Measuring Presence in Virtual Environments: A Prese
Questionnaire. Presence, Vol. 7, No. 3, June 1998, 225

4. Slater M. Measuring Presence: A Response to the Witmer and Singer Presence
Questionnaire. Presence, Teleoperators and Virtual Environments. October 1999, Vol.
8, No. 5, Pages 560

5. I
nsko, B. E. Measuring Presence: Subjective, Behavioral and Physiological
Methods. In Being There: Concepts, Effects and Measurement of User Presence in
Synthetic Environments, Riva, G., Davide, F., and Ijesslsteon, W. A. (eds.) Ios Ptress,
Amsterdam, The N
etherlands, 2003.

6. Lok B. , Naik S., Whitton M., Brooks F. P. Jr. Effects of Handling Real Objects and
Avatar Fidelity On Cognitive Task Performance in Virtual Environments //
Proceedings of the IEEE Virtual Reality 2003 (VR’03), pp.125

7. Averbukh
N.V., Scherbinin A.A. Phenomenon of “Presence” at a Virtual Reality in
a Context of Intellectual Activity of the Person // Proceeding of VII International
Scientific and Methodical Conference “New educational technology at the
university”, Ekaterinburg, p
p. 155
(In Russian)