As a virtual reality enthusiast, I wanted to explore the emerging medium for my master’s thesis. With a background in graphic design, visual journalism, and user experience, I set out to explore how virtual reality user interfaces facilitate immersion and presence. Before diving into some preliminary findings, it is important to define immersion, presence, and user-interface, as it pertains to this thesis.
Presence: The subjective psychological state of “being there oou88dg.” Virtual reality headsets attempt to foster presence by manipulating users’ sensory channels.
Immersion: The objective level of sensory fidelity. Virtual reality research has largely focused on levels of immersion, specifically pertaining to hardware specs, limitations, and simulator sickness.
User Interface: The means through which users interact with a computer, including, screens, menus, icons, and methods of mechanical inputs such as keyboards, touch screens, or game controllers.
With these concepts in mind, I would like to share some very early trends I am finding from my data. These trends specifically relate to only one section of my research in which 15 participants played a 15-minute play session of a virtual reality video game. After completing their play session, a presence questionnaire was administered (Witmer & Singer, 1998). This questionnaire, a series of seven-point Likert scale questions, was designed to measure the degree to which individuals experience presence in a virtual environment.
Overall, participants were most often drawn out of the experience when games failed to naturally replicate our everyday interactions. For example, if a person wanted to hold an object in the virtual environment and the game did not allow this interaction, it prevented the user from feeling present. In most games, additional information is required to translate mechanical inputs on the controller, to the interactions in-game. I have found that most overlying this information spatially, or integrating the information naturally in the environment, does not break presence. It is more likely, to ruin the sensation of presence, if the user becomes frustrated, such as misunderstanding a mechanic or objective.
As mentioned, this is a very early and brief look at findings from my data. Within the coming months, I hope to publish all of my findings from the research.