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The Effect of Visual and Interaction Fidelity on Spatial Cognition in Immersive Virtual Environments

journal contribution
posted on 2023-06-07, 23:06 authored by Katerina Mania, Dave Wooldridge, Matthew Coxon, Andrew Robinson
Accuracy of memory performance per se is an imperfect reflection of the cognitive activity (awareness states) that underlies performance in memory tasks. The aim of this research is to investigate the effect of varied visual and interaction fidelity of immersive Virtual Environments on memory awareness states. A between groups experiment was carried out to explore the effect of rendering quality on location-based recognition memory for objects and associated states of awareness. The experimental space, consisting of two interconnected rooms was rendered either flatshaded or using radiosity rendering. The computer graphics simulations were displayed on a stereo head-tracked Head Mounted Display. Participants completed a recognition memory task after exposure to the experimental space and reported one of four states of awareness following object recognition. These reflected the level of visual mental imagery involved during retrieval, the familiarity of the recollection and also included guesses. Experimental results revealed variations in the distribution of participants awareness states across conditions while memory performance failed to reveal any. Interestingly, results revealed a higher proportion of recollections associated with mental imagery in the flat-shaded condition. These findings comply with similar effects revealed in two earlier studies summarized here, which demonstrated that the less naturalistic interaction interface or interface of low interaction fidelity provoked a higher proportion of recognitions based on visual mental images.


Publication status

  • Published


IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics







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Department affiliated with

  • Informatics Publications


Originality: This paper focuses on the effect of variations of visual quality in relation to shadow accuracy on spatial awareness states of immersive scenes displayed on Head Mounted Displays. Results indicate that degraded visual quality, in some cases, provokes strong mental imagery associated with memory recollections because of the attentional resources associated with scenes which are not realistic. In this manner, we propose an innovative cognitive fidelity metric for scenes of varied rendering quality. This work is highly interdisciplinary. Rigour: Experiments are conducted formally according to procedures adopted from memory psychology. Significance: This is an entirely novel approach which assesses the fidelity of a computer graphics scene from a cognitive rather than a physics point of view. It indicates that certain visual degradations which would result in savings of computation could provoke similar memory performance but varied mental strategies associated with memory performance. Impact: Potentially, for instance, for flight simulation applications it is crucial for trainees to achieve a high level of visually induced recollections related to instruments as opposed to feelings of familiarity of even confident recollections which are not accompanied by visual imagery. A new collaborations betweem Informatics at Sussex and Psychology at the University of Lancaster has arisen from this work.

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