|dc.description.abstract||Navigation is an everyday activity. It consists of knowing where you are, knowing where you want to go, and choosing some way to get there. This way is referred to as locomotion or a locomotion method. As we locomote we must use the information we acquire from the environment to update our understanding of where we are in the environment. This process is called spatial updating. One common locomotion method is walking, and a large body of literature has shown that we are able to more easily spatially update using information we take in from our environment when walking as compared to other locomotion methods. The situation is similar for large immersive virtual environments. Unfortunately, there is no natural way of providing true walking for a large immersive virtual environment due to limitations of the virtual reality system itself, e.g., limitations of the space in which the system monitors a user’s movements and reflects them in the virtual world, called the tracked space. Rather, all methods of locomotion have to be designed to fit the constraints of the system. This dissertation investigates the design and evaluation of locomotion methods with the goal of understanding how to best support spatial awareness and spatial updating.
In five experiments, we focus on several factors that affect people’s ability to navigate through large virtual spaces with high spatial awareness. These factors are the choice of the locomotion method, the ability of each individual to reason spatially, and the size of the tracked space supported by the virtual reality system. This dissertation presents four major findings. Locomotion methods that provide physical translation better support spatial awareness and spatial updating. Locomotion methods that simulate walking without providing physical translation support spatial awareness but make it difficult to demonstrate that awareness. An individual’s spatial ability interacts with the choice of locomotion method in a manner that affects spatial. Finally, the appropriate locomotion method is dependent on the available tracked space.
This work opens our understanding of how individual ability, locomotion method, room size, and spatial awareness interact and affect each other. These results will be useful to designers of immersive virtual environments because they provide guidelines into the choice of locomotion method and help them understand when additional spatial information will need to be provided to the user. Cognitive scientists may find our results useful because they explore what information is important in spatial reasoning for large virtual spaces. Future work can explore individualization of these locomotion methods or how to combine multiple locomotion methods to support the exploration of vast virtual worlds.||