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Perception Lab: VR for Perception Studies

My Ph.D. (Application-independent Time Critical Rendering), was a combination of visual perception and computer science. For example, we would put hgh spatial frequency information in one eye and low-spatial-frequency textures and color in the other. Thie could potentially improve the speed of each computer (we had one per eye and a rather ill-named socket connection between the two eyes).
This led to a more fundamental model around performing perception studies in VR. This would give us one measure of how well the virtual environment corresponded to the real world from the person's perspective as well as provide a rapid testing environment. We could quickly iron out testing details for a more involved real-world perception study as well as test visual stimulii that was difficult to get in the real world.
An example of that was a geographical slant (hill) study done by Denny Proffit and Mukul Bhalla. They wanted to study the discrepancy between how steep people perceive a hill and the actual slope (and later whether people like skiiers or roofers might do a better job).
To conduct this test in the real world, they had to pay students and take them to various locations around the town. Getting to steep, tall hills was also problematic. Meanwhile we conducted a similar study in a virtual environment. We had no problem getting people to sign up, we could quickly test different slopes in different orders, and we could do hills much steeper than available around town.
The resulting graphs of people's perceptions matched extremely well in the virtual environment to those in the real world. The curve showed how people might perceive steeper hills. The was beneficial for helping measure the accuracy of the virtual environment as well as helping the real world study.
This study led us to consider constructing a virtual perception lab with an API (in C and in python) to allow us to try out other studies quickly. It was also well timed, since other labs, such as Georgia Tech, were experimenting with using VR to help people get over fear of heights, with government and company VR systems testing out its utility as a training mechanism (e.g. fire fight training).
Mukul Bhalla, Rich Gossweiler, Jonathan Midgett, Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 2, 1995, 409-428.
Lawrence Rosenblum, Jim Durbin, Upul Obeysekare, Linda Sibert, David Tate, James Templeman, Jyoti Agrawal et al., Computer Graphics and Applications, IEEE 16, no. 6 (1996): 10-13.
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