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The influence of a Sign System on the Sense of Presence in a Desktop Virtual Environment

Gilok Choi and Hsin-liang Chen

ASIS&T Annual Meeting - 2006 (ASIS&T 2006)
Austin, Texas, November 3-9, 2006


Abstract

Introduction: Three Dimensional Interface Design and the Sense of Presence In a virtual world, users experience compelling illusions, permitting them to become a part of an electronically generated environment. According to Riva, the soul of virtual reality (VR) is a perceptual experience, which enables users to believe that they are ‘being there’ in the virtual world. In the world of VEs, presence refers to such compelling sense of being in a computer generated environment, which occurs when users react as though a medium is not present due to the perceptual failure of the medium in his environment. In spite of the importance of users’ perceptual experience, however, only limited consideration has been given to the experiences users encounter when interacting with the virtual interface. Therefore, this is certainly an area in which much work needs to be carried out, and the main focus of this paper is to investigate the impact of interface design on the sense of presence.

Wayfinding and Sign System Spatial movement called navigation consists of both cognitive and motor components. Cognitive part of navigation is called wayfinding and it is defined as “the cognitive process of defining a path through an environment, using and acquiring spatial knowledge, aided by both natural and artificial cues”. One possible way to support navigation is to add perceptual cues, that is, to enhance perceptual affordance of an existing environment. Previous research shows that a compass in combination with a map is very effective wayfinding tool to a trained navigator such as a pilot, but most users are not familiar with using a compass as a directional cue. In real-world situation, a sign, instead of a compass, are most extensively used to provide spatial knowledge and direction. The study therefore attempts to examine whether the degrees of presence are enhanced by wayfinding affordances supported by a sign system.

Research Questions

1.What are the effects of wayfinding affordances enhanced by a sign system on the sense of presence?

2.What is the relationship between the sense of presence and wayfinding task performance

3.What are the users’ personal properties that determine the sense of presence?

Methodology Forty participants from (under)graduate students at the University of Texas at Austin will partticipate in the study. In order to collect empirical data, a controlled experiment will be conducted, in which participants will perform comparable tasks in two different conditions: control (C) condition and experimental (E) condition. In the control condition, participants will be given a virtual city application without a support of signs whereas in the experimental condition, participants will be given a version with a support of signs. Participants will receive total 10 tasks on a condition. Once the 10 tasks are completed, participants will start the second session after 5 minutes break time. When participants complete the tasks, they will be asked to complete a post-test questionnaire on the sense of presence on 1-to-7 Likert type scales. The task performance will be measured with navigation duration, task completion and accuracy, and users’ personal properties will be recorded from the pre-questionnaires asking gender, computer literacy, previous experience with VEs and age. For the experiment, two virtual cities will be constructed with an ActiveWorlds.

Data Analysis ANOVA repeated measure will be used to identify if there is difference between the control and the experimental conditions in terms of 1) the sense of presence and 2) task performance. Correlation analysis will be also conducted to examine the relationship between users’ personal property and the sense of presence.


  
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