Navigational Search in VR: Do we need to walk?


Do we need full phys­i­cal motions for effec­tive nav­i­ga­tion through Virtual Environments? Recent results sug­gest that trans­la­tions might not be as impor­tant as pre­vi­ously believed, which could enable us to reduce over­all sim­u­la­tion effort and cost

Physical rota­tions and trans­la­tions are the basic con­stituents of nav­i­ga­tion behav­ior, yet there is mixed evi­dence about their rel­a­tive impor­tance for com­plex nav­i­ga­tion in vir­tual real­ity (VR). In the present exper­i­ment, 24 par­tic­i­pants wore head-mounted dis­plays and per­formed nav­i­ga­tional search tasks with rotations/translations con­trolled by phys­i­cal motion or joy­stick. As expected, phys­i­cal walk­ing showed per­for­mance ben­e­fits over joy­stick nav­i­ga­tion. Controlling trans­la­tions via joy­stick and rota­tions via phys­i­cal rota­tions led to better per­for­mance than joy­stick nav­i­ga­tion, and yielded almost com­pa­ra­ble per­for­mance to actual walk­ing in terms of search effi­ciency and time. Walking resulted, how­ever, in increased view­point changes and shorter nav­i­ga­tion paths, sug­gest­ing a rotation/translation trade­off and dif­fer­ent nav­i­ga­tion strate­gies. While pre­vi­ous stud­ies have empha­sized the impor­tance of full phys­i­cal motion via walk­ing (Ruddle & Lessels, 2006, 2009), our data sug­gests that con­sid­er­able nav­i­ga­tion improve­ments can already be gained by allow­ing for full-body rota­tions, with­out the con­sid­er­able cost, space, track­ing, and safety require­ments of free-space walk­ing setups.

Video below: Navigational search par­a­digm for rotations


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