The Right View from the Wrong Location: Depth Perception in Stereoscopic Multi-User Virtual Environments
Stereoscopic depth cues improve depth perception and increase immersion within virtual environments (VEs). However, improper display of these cues can distort perceived distances and directions. Consider a multi-user VE, where all users view identical stereoscopic images regardless of physical location. In this scenario, cues are typically customized for one "leader" equipped with a head-tracking device. This user stands at the center of projection (CoP) and all other users ("followers") view the scene from other locations and receive improper depth cues. This paper examines perceived depth distortion when viewing stereoscopic VEs from follower perspectives and the impact of these distortions on collaborative spatial judgments. Pairs of participants made collaborative depth judgments of virtual shapes viewed from the CoP or after displacement forward or backward. Forward and backward displacement caused perceived depth compression and expansion, respectively, with greater compression than expansion. Furthermore, distortion was less than predicted by a ray-intersection model of stereo geometry. Collaboration times were significantly longer when participants stood at different locations compared to the same location, and increased with greater perceived depth discrepancy between the two viewing locations. These findings advance our understanding of spatial distortions in multi-user VEs, and suggest a strategy for reducing distortion.