Virtual Reality and Social Presence


This project is to understand the impacts of increasing levels of fidelity (or realism) of avatars that deliver instruction on the learners’ sense of presence. We compare commonly used low fidelity avatars with high fidelity, stereoscopic 3-D avatars in MR settings. The study is situated in rapid development and integration of mixed reality (MR) for teaching, training, and learning. Immersive interfaces from virtual reality (VR) to mixed reality (MR) and augmented reality (AR) are proliferating in the workplace, healthcare, and academic settings. Industries use AR, VR, and MR interfaces to deliver training, education, and therapy to geographically distributed individuals. Content is delivered by a human or artificial intelligence agent represented as a human avatar (digital representation of the trainer). Social presence describes an individual’s sense of social connection with another. Researchers use social presence as a measure to determine if users of immersive media systems feel connected to the trainers, therapists, and teachers they are connecting to via AR, MR, or VR environments. This metric of social presence correlates with learning and engagement in AR, VR, and MR (Hayes et al, 2013). The results of the study will help us design and use appropriate avatars when incorporating mixed reality for teaching, training, and learning.

Further Reading:

Hayes, A., Hardin, S. E., & Hughes, C. (2013). Perceived presence's role on learning outcomes in a mixed reality classroom of simulated students. Proceedings from Human-Computer Interaction International, Las Vegas, Nevada: Springer.