Selecting targets directly in the virtual world is difficult due to the lack of haptic feedback and inaccurate estimation of egocentric distances. Proprioception, the sense of self-movement and body position, can be utilized to improve virtual target selection by placing targets on or around one's body. However, its effective scope is limited closely around one's body. We explore the concept of virtually-extended proprioception by appending virtual body parts mimicking real body parts to users' avatars, to provide spatial reference to virtual targets. Our studies suggest that our approach facilitates more efficient target selection in VR as compared to no reference or using an everyday object as reference. Besides, by cultivating users' sense of ownership on the appended virtual body part, we can further enhance target selection performance. The effects of transparency and granularity of the virtual body part on target selection performance are also discussed.
When physical props serve as proxies for virtual tools used to manipulate the virtual environment, it is challenging to provide appropriate haptic feedback. Redirected tool-mediated manipulation addresses this challenge by distorting the mapping between physical and virtual tools to provide a sensation of manipulating the virtual environment, when the physical tool comes into contact with another physical prop. For example, a virtual hammer's position can be offset to ensure that physical impacts accompany each strike of a virtual nail. We demonstrate the idea by showing that it can be used to create sensations of impact and resistance when driving a virtual nail into a surface, when tightening a virtual screw, and when sawing through a virtual plank. The results of a user study indicate that the proposed approach is perceived as more realistic than interaction with a single physical prop or controller and no notable detriments to precision were observed.
Providing users with rich sensations is beneficial to enhance their immersion in Virtual Reality (VR) environments. Wetness is one such imperative sensation that affects users' sense of comfort and helps users adjust grip force when interacting with objects. Researchers have recently begun to explore ways to create wetness illusions, primarily on a user's face or body skin. In this work, we extended this line of research by creating wetness illusion on users' fingertips. We first conducted a user study to understand the effect of thermal and tactile feedback on users' perceived wetness sensation. Informed by the findings, we designed and evaluated a prototype---Mouillé---that provides various levels of wetness illusions on fingertips for both hard and soft items when users squeeze, lift, or scratch it. Study results indicated that users were able to feel wetness with different levels of temperature changes and they were able to distinguish three levels of wetness for simulated VR objects. We further presented applications that simulated an ice cube, an iced cola bottle, and a wet sponge, etc, to demonstrate its use in VR.
RoomShift is a room-scale dynamic haptic environment for virtual reality, using a small swarm of robots that can move furniture. RoomShift consists of nine shape-changing robots: Roombas with mechanical scissor lifts. These robots drive beneath a piece of furniture to lift, move and place it. By augmenting virtual scenes with physical objects, users can sit on, lean against, place and otherwise interact with furniture with their whole body; just as in the real world. When the virtual scene changes or users navigate within it, the swarm of robots dynamically reconfigures the physical environment to match the virtual content. We describe the hardware and software implementation, applications in virtual tours and architectural design and interaction techniques.
Open offices are cost-effective and continue to be popular. However, research shows that these environments, brimming with distractions and sensory overload, frequently hamper productivity. Our research investigates the use of virtual reality (VR) to mitigate distractions in an open office setting and improve one's ability to be in flow. In a lab study, 35 participants performed visual programming tasks in four combinations of physical (open or closed office) and virtual environments (beach or virtual office). While participants both preferred and were in flow more in a closed office without VR, in an open office, the VR environments outperformed the no VR condition in all measures of flow, performance, and preference. Especially considering the recent rapid advancements in VR, our findings illustrate the potential VR has to improve flow and satisfaction in open offices.