Game Development Reference
In-Depth Information
Interactions between virtual reality
and behavioural sciences
Daniel Mestre and Jean-LouisVercher
Researchers in the field of Behavioural Sciences (from Psychology to Behavioural and
Cognitive Neuroscience) make use of experimental devices intended to use the sensory
information and the control conditions of the activity possessed by the experimental
subjects in order to better understand the sensory, motor and cognitive determinants
of the working of the human operator. Virtual reality techniques for researchers are
thus nothing but a development of the existing techniques. However, we are presently
witnessing the convergence and constant accelerated progress of numerous techniques
of sensory stimulation, capturing human movements and sensorimotor interactions in
real time, under the generic term of virtual reality. The purpose here will be to show
that virtual reality, while making it possible for the field of Behavioural Sciences to
tackle new questions, will benefit in return from the theoretical advances resulting
from experimental work.
In particular, we can observe that virtual reality (having common origins with cin-
ematographic arts) clearly has a technological origin. Thus, the research of immersion
and feeling of presence has been considered to be a contributory factor of the perfor-
mance in the virtual environments. Taking a better look at it, we can observe that it
often involves principles laid down as basic tenets without any real justification other
than the introspection of the device inventors. Thus, even if it cannot be denied that
Behavioural Sciences have given an objective foundation to virtual reality, there are
nevertheless numerous parameters that still remain to be fixed. Thus, the role of the
stereoscopic presentation of the virtual worlds or even the optimum rate of refreshing
images in motion remain open and complex questions. The virtual reality/Behavioural
Sciences dialogue is necessarily topical, particularly at the level of the two fundamental
characteristics of any virtual reality device: Immersion and Interaction.
It should be recalled briefly that virtual reality is technically defined as a computer
device that makes it possible for a (or several) person(s) to view complex data and
interact with this data. Fuchs et al. (2001) note that “the purpose of virtual reality is
to make it possible for a person (or persons) to carry out sensorimotor and cognitive
activities in a digitally created artificial world, which is perhaps imaginary, symbolic
or a simulation of certain aspects of the real world''. There are two essential aspects
to retain here: 1) the viewing is immersive, i.e. we try to make the subject feel that the
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