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Open Access Contribution of Motion Parallax and Stereopsis to the Sense of Presence in Virtual Reality

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The sense of presence is defined as a subjective feeling of being situated in an environment and occupying a location therein. The sense of presence is a defining feature of virtual environments. In two experiments, we aimed at investigating the relative contribution of motion parallax and stereopsis to the sense of presence, using two versions of the classic pit room paradigm in virtual reality. In Experiment 1, participants were asked to cross a deep abyss between two platforms on a narrow plank. Participants completed the task under three experimental conditions: (1) when the lateral component of motion parallax was disabled, (2) when stereopsis was disabled, and (3) when both stereopsis and motion parallax were available. As a subjective measure of presence, participants completed a presence questionnaire after each condition. Additionally, electrodermal activity (EDA) was recorded as a measure of anxiety. In Experiment 1, EDA responses were significantly higher with restricted motion parallax as compared to the other two conditions. However, no difference was observed in terms of the subjective presence scores across the three conditions. To test whether these results were due to the nature of the environment, participants in Experiment 2 experienced a slightly less stressful environment, where they were asked to stand on a ledge and drop virtual balls to specified targets into the abyss. The same experimental manipulations were used as in Experiment 1. Again, the EDA responses were significantly higher when motion parallax was impaired as compared to when stereopsis was disabled. The results of the presence questionnaire revealed a reduced sense of presence with impaired motion parallax compared to the normal viewing condition. Across the two experiments, our results unexpectedly demonstrate that presence in the virtual environments is not necessarily linked to EDA responses elicited by affective situations as has been implied by earlier studies.
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Affiliations: 1: Centre for Neuroscience Studies, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada 2: Centre for Vision Research, York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada 3: Department of Biology, York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Appeared or available online: July 21, 2020

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