Victoria-Interrante2Academic VR researchers have shown that “people typically underestimate egocentric distances in immersive virtual environments,” sometimes up to 20%. This could have huge implications for architectural visualizations, but also for anyone making aesthetic judgments based upon the proportion and scale represented within a virtual environment. I had a chance to catch up with University of Minnesota professor Victoria Interrante at the IEEE VR conference to talk about her 12 years of research into some of these perceptual and cognitive effects within virtual environments. We talk about some of the causes, the role of embodiment in distance estimation, photorealistic vs stylized environments, and the impact of having virtual humans within the environment.


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  • Hayk Amirbekyan

    Probably due to the limited field of vision in VR headsets. Not a VR issue, but a headset issue. Cant make general claims like this until VR can give us full field of view, 90Hm refresh rate, and accurate positional tracking.

    • ZenInsight

      +1 for common sense.

    • crim3

      And eye lens accommodation.

  • Archie1dash

    Cool. Never thought about that

  • Forrest G

    I wonder if they researched this in the real world if they would come up with the same statistic. A lot of people just have terrible spacial reasoning.

  • Seerak

    I have found that sticking to real world numbers for scene scale and eye separation – and therefore, real world ratios between the two – goes a long way to perceived realism in prerendered stereo 360. 20% sounds like the right margin of error, as that’s about the farthest in either direction you can go from real-world ratios before the brain starts to think the scene is either too small, or too flat.

    Edit to Add Disclaimer: I have a bog standard physical eye separation and mild myopia. I can’t speak to how important that variable is.