Enhancing Training and Presence in Virtual Environments Using Passive Haptics
One of the worst virtual environment experiences is to virtually contact something and feel nothing. Visual-haptic sensory conflicts are normally dominated by visual perception. Therefore, augmenting a high-fidelity visual virtual environment with low-fidelity haptic objects, called passive haptics, should markedly improve both sense of presence and task training effectiveness. Testing these hypotheses, I found adding a 1.5 inch physical ledge to a visual-cliff virtual environment increased participants' sense of presence as measured by subjective questionnaires, observed participant behaviors, and physiological responses. I next examined memory model creation and training effectiveness for a navigation task in a virtual environment with and without passive haptics. No significant differences were found in memory model creation. When navigating an identical real environment while blindfolded, those trained in a virtual environment augmented with passive haptics performed significantly faster and with fewer collisions than those trained in a non-augmented virtual environment. More participants who trained without passive haptics unexpectedly navigated incorrectly about the same obstacle.