By Glen O’Grady, Frederick Chew and Craig Gall, Australian National University
Yesterday we invited you to observe some VR experiences and the effect it had upon the user of the technology and we suggested the impact is related to the concepts of immersion and presence.
Immersion and presence are often used interchangeably in the VR literature but there are important distinctions. Immersion is the creation of reality that has an impact on the learner. While presence is the psychological state the learner experiences when there is immersion (Qin 2009).
Inducing a sense of physical immersion involves manipulating human sensory systems to enable the belief one is surrounded by a virtual world (Dede 1995). Immersion in VR is a product of technology facilitating the production of multimodal sensory input to the user (Wang 2017). The combination of technologies like stereoscopic vision that simulates depth of vision, coupled with a full field of view, spatial audio, movement, and a low latency rate (which is the time lag between when a user acts and when the virtual environment reflects that action) produces a powerful sensory experience.
 A VR system should ideally have a delay of 15ms or even 7ms between the time a player moves their head and the time the player sees a new, corrected view of the scene (Orland 2013)
What makes VR potentially such a powerful experience?
In 1975, Csikszentmihalyi proposed the term flow, this term describes a state of absorption or engagement in an activity (Pace, 2004). It characterizes a psychological state of concentration, focus and elevated enjoyment during intrinsically interesting activities (Hamari, 2016). Researchers have looked at the concept of flow in the context of VR and have identified two key components that facilitate flow in VR experiences – immersion and presence (Qin 2009).
|Stereoscopic Vision||Field of View||Spatial Audio|
|By Thepigdog (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons||CC BY-SA 4.0 File: Peripheral vision.svg Created: 29 November 2014||Am3d. (n.d.). 3d_300x287 [Representation of 3d sound system]. Retrieved February, 2017, from http://www.am3d.com/home-english/products/zirene%C2%AE-3d.aspx|
Other important aspects that can facilitate immersion are the use of narratives and creative design. Narratives are more than just a story that can give context to a new reality, narrative and narrative genres are often used as a way of defining the conventions of a world and that help players align their expectations with the logic of the world. Narratives that are particularly effective are those that foster curiosity, concentration, challenge and skill, control, comprehension, empathy, and familiarity (Qin 2008). Researchers have found that creative design features like the use of light, colour and texture can also invoke immersion. A set of experiments (Naz 2017) illustrated that perceivable emotional aspects of real-world spaces could be successfully generated through simulation of design attributes in the virtual space (subjective response to the virtual space was consistent with corresponding responses from real-world colour and brightness emotional perception).
In summary, the virtual environment, when the user can see, hear, and manipulate the environment, just as they do in the real world this provides the user with a visceral feeling and cognitive belief that what they are experiencing virtually, has a form of physical reality. This feeling and belief is what constitutes presence.
Presence is defined as “the subjective experience of being in one place or environment, even when one is physically situated in another” (Witmer and Singer 1998). The sense of “being there” is largely dependent upon the level of immersion that is created. Witmer and Singer (1998) contend that a virtual environment that has a greater sense of immersion, produces higher levels of presence. When you watched the VR experiences earlier and witnessed the visceral nature of this experience it is worth considering what the user brought to the activity. Their willingness to invest not only their time, but their feelings and thoughts, into the activity – to the point that they perceived themselves in the context of these environments and allowed the continuous stimuli to reinforce this perception.
To explore more on the concept of presence you can go here.
Stevens (2015) has specified what is hypothesised as the design factors in VR that foster presence.
We will later in the week explore how these might be design features for possible VR education experiences.
One of the better lectures that explains presence based on perceptual reality. Bruno Herbelin – Cognitive mechanisms behind presence and embodiment in Virtual Reality
A tour of Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab that addresses the psychological effects of VR. It explains how immersion and presence are influenced by technical and other affordances. Virtual Reality’s Psychological and Behavioral Effects
Today we have tried to briefly examine what makes for a VR experience so powerful. Discuss the following questions in the forum:
- When considering how you have been immersed in face to face learning activties what were the factors that you believe helped to facilitate that immersion?
- What do you think will be the challenges in fostering immersion and presence in VR learning activities?
Dede, C. (1995). The evolution of constructivist learning environments: Immersion in distributed, virtual worlds. Educational technology, 35(5), 46-52.
Hamari, J., Shernoff, D. J., Rowe, E., Coller, B., Asbell-Clarke, J., & Edwards, T. (2016). Challenging games help students learn: An empirical study on engagement, flow and immersion in game-based learning. Computers in Human Behavior, 54, 170-179.
Naz A., Kopper R., McMahan R. P. and Nadin, M. (2017) “Emotional qualities of VR space,” 2017 IEEE Virtual Reality (VR), Los Angeles, CA, pp. 3-11.
Nozick, R. (1974). Anarchy, state, and utopia. New York Basic books.
Orland Kyle. (2013). How fast does “virtual reality” have to be to look like “actual reality”?. [ONLINE] Available at: https://arstechnica.com/gaming/2013/01/how-fast-does-virtual-reality-have-to-be-to-look-like-actual-reality/. [Accessed 3 July 2017].
Pace, S. (2004). A grounded theory of the flow experiences of Web users. International journal of human-computer studies, 60(3), 327-363.
Qin, H., Patrick Rau, P. L., & Salvendy, G. (2009). Measuring player immersion in the computer game narrative. Intl. Journal of Human–Computer Interaction, 25(2), 107-133. http://www.tandfonline.com.virtual.anu.edu.au/doi/abs/10.1080/10447310802546732
Stevens, Jonathan A., and J. Peter Kincaid. (2015). “The relationship between presence and performance in virtual simulation training.” Open Journal of Modelling and Simulation 3, no. 02 :41.
Wang, Y. F., Petrina, S., & Feng, F. (2017). VILLAGE—Virtual Immersive Language Learning and Gaming Environment: Immersion and presence. British Journal of Educational Technology, 48(2), 431-450.
Witmer, B. and Singer, M. (1998) Measuring Presence in Virtual Environments: A Presence Questionnaire. Presence, 7, 225-240. http://dx.doi.org/10.1162/105474698565686