When people create and modify their virtual reality avatars, the hardships faced by their alter egos can influence how they perceive virtual environments, according to researchers presenting their findings at 2013 Annual Conference on Human Factors…
When people create and modify their virtual reality avatars, the hardships faced by their alter egos can influence how they perceive virtual environments, according to researchers.
A group of students who saw that a backpack was attached to an avatar that they had created overestimated the heights of virtual hills, just as people in real life tend to overestimate heights and distances while carrying extra weight, according to Sangseok You, a doctoral student in the school of information, University of Michigan.
“You exert more of your agency through an avatar when you design it yourself,” said S. Shyam Sundar, Distinguished Professor of Communications and co-director of the Media Effects Research Laboratory, Penn State, who worked with You. “Your identity mixes in with the identity of that avatar and, as a result, your visual perception of the virtual environment is colored by the physical resources of your avatar.”
Researchers assigned random avatars to one group of participants, but allowed another group to customize their avatars. In each of these two groups, half of the participants saw that their avatar had a backpack, while the other half had avatars without backpacks, according to You.
When placed in a virtual environment with three hills of different heights and angles of incline, participants who customized their avatars perceived those hills as higher and steeper than participants who were assigned avatars by the researchers, Sundar said. They also overestimated the amount of calories it would take to hike up the hill if their custom avatar had a backpack.
“If your avatar is carrying a backpack, you feel like you are going to have trouble climbing that hill, but this only happens when you customize the avatar,” said Sundar.
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