Distance Perception in Virtual Reality

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Hammel, William
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The Department of Psychology may prepare students with a liberal study, or for work in academia or professional education for law or health-services. Graduates will be able to apply the scientific method to human behavior and mental processes, as well as have ample knowledge of psychological theory and method.
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Symposium on Undergraduate Research and Creative Expression
Iowa State University Conferences and Symposia

The Symposium provides undergraduates from all academic disciplines with an opportunity to share their research with the university community and other guests through conference-style oral presentations. The Symposium represents part of a larger effort of Iowa State University to enhance, support, and celebrate undergraduate research activity.

Though coordinated by the University Honors Program, all undergraduate students are eligible and encouraged to participate in the Symposium. Undergraduates conducting research but not yet ready to present their work are encouraged to attend the Symposium to learn about the presentation process and students not currently involved in research are encouraged to attend the Symposium to learn about the broad range of undergraduate research activities that are taking place at ISU.

The first Symposium was held in April 2007. The 39 students who presented research and their mentors collectively represented all of ISU's Colleges: Agriculture and Life Sciences, Business, Design, Engineering, Human Sciences, Liberal Arts and Sciences, Veterinary Medicine, and the Graduate College. The event has grown to regularly include more than 100 students presenting on topics that span the broad range of disciplines studied at ISU.


Distance perception in virtual reality is radically different than distance perception in the real world. For example, distances tend to be underperceived in virtual reality, and anisotropic effects of distance perception seen in the real world are exacerbated. Three experiments were conducted examining distance perception in virtual reality. The first two experiments examined the speed of improvement as a result of interaction and the transfer of improvement across different scales of space. The third experiment examined the anisotropic effect of distance orientation on perceived distance within the virtual environment. The first experiment found that five interaction trials resulted in a large improvement in perceived distance, and subsequent interactions also continued improvement, but suffered heavily from diminishing returns. In the second experiment, interaction with near (1-2m) objects improved distance perception for near but not far (4-5m) objects, while interaction with far objects improved distance perception for both near and far objects. In the third experiment, the orientation of the distances between the objects significantly affected distance perception between all but two of the conditions. These results help generate strategies to reduce underperception in virtual reality, and help distinguish between theories of how interacting with environments influences perceived distances.