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Markus Leyrer, Sally A. Linkenauger, Heinrich H. Bülthoff, Uwe Kloos, Betty Mohler; The influence of a scaled third-person animated avatar on perception and action in virtual environments. Journal of Vision 2011;11(11):69. https://doi.org/10.1167/11.11.69.
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Newer technology is allowing for virtual environments to become more realistic by providing visual image quality that is very similar to that in the real world. Regardless, egocentric distances estimates in virtual reality have been shown to be underestimated (Thompson et al., 2004). Interestingly, this underestimation decreases after individuals view self-representing avatars in the virtual environment; especially when the avatars are self-animated (Mohler et al., 2010). These finding support perspectives on embodied perception which assert that the body and its action capabilities can act as a “perceptual ruler” that the perceiver uses to scale the world. To test this perspective, we immersed participants into a full-cue, virtual environment where they viewed a self-animated avatar from behind at a distance of 3.5 m away at the same eye-height as the avatar. We manipulated the relationship between the size of the avatar and the size of the virtual room (which included familiar objects) to see if participants would attribute these changes either to the size of the world or to the size of their body. Participants made verbal estimates about the size of self and the world and performed a walking-in-place task. We found that participants verbally attributed the apparent size difference to the virtual world and not to the self which suggests that space perception is grounded in the physical body. Further, we found an influence of condition on the post/pre walking-in-place drift suggesting that the participants felt embodied in the third person animated avatar. Further research needs to be conducted in order to fully understand the relative importance of visual cues about self, such as motion coupling, eye-height and distance of avatar from observer, on perception and action in virtual worlds.
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