Jonathan W. Kelly, William W. Hammel, Zachary D. Siegel, Lori A. Sjolund
Distance in immersive virtual reality is commonly underperceived relative to intended distance, causing virtual environments to appear smaller than they actually are. However, a brief period of interaction by walking through the virtual environment with visual feedback can cause dramatic improvement in perceived distance. The goal of the current project was to determine how quickly improvement occurs as a result of walking interaction (Experiment 1) and whether improvement is specific to the distances experienced during interaction, or whether improvement transfers across scales of space (Experiment 2). The results show that five interaction trials resulted in a large improvement in perceived distance, and that subsequent walking interactions showed continued but diminished improvement. Furthermore, interaction with near objects (1-2 m) improved distance perception for near but not far (4-5 m) objects, whereas interaction with far objects broadly improved distance perception for both near and far objects. These results have practical implications for ameliorating distance underperception in immersive virtual reality, as well as theoretical implications for distinguishing between theories of how walking interaction influences perceived distance.