September 2019
Volume 19, Issue 10
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   September 2019
The Influence of Space Semantics on Navigational Choices in Virtual Settings
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Serena De Stefani
    Psychology, Rutgers University
  • Davide Schaumann
    Computer Science, Rutgers University
  • Xun Zhang
    Computer Science, Rutgers University
  • Jacob Feldman
    Psychology, Rutgers University
  • Mubbasir Kapadia
    Computer Science, Rutgers University
Journal of Vision September 2019, Vol.19, 179d. doi:
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      Serena De Stefani, Davide Schaumann, Xun Zhang, Jacob Feldman, Mubbasir Kapadia; The Influence of Space Semantics on Navigational Choices in Virtual Settings. Journal of Vision 2019;19(10):179d.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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When navigating complex environments, humans are exposed to social and spatial cues produced by the built environment and by the presence and movement of other people in the space. In this work, we focus on space semantics cues, which denote how space can be used by people at a given time. We use the term space semantics to mean the ensemble of the psychological and behavioral properties implicit in the configuration and visual appearance of environments (Franz & Wiener, 2006). For example, space semantics differentiate an “office” from a kitchen”, or a “nurse station” from a “patient room”, by enabling different kinds of users’ behaviors. Semantic properties may be conveyed by a combination of geometric properties, the configuration of equipment, and the presence and activities of specific users. To understand how people are affected by space semantics, we built a virtual hallway that our subjects can navigate and explore through a desktop computer. We created four versions of the same setting, manipulating aspects of the scene such as the presence of objects or people, while leaving unaltered the geometry of the pathway available to subjects. We evaluated the navigational choices of the subjects and their chosen pathway in a virtual setting, asking them to find a way out of an enclosure. Results show how it is possible to direct people’s behavior through the way space communicates meaning, rather than using overt signage.


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