Virtual Reality provides a new way of experiencing virtual content with unprecedented capabilities that have the potential of profoundly impact our society. However little is known about how this new scenario influences users’ perception. Our research efforts are targeted towards understanding viewers’ behavior in immersive VR environments.
With the proliferation of low-cost, consumer level head-mounted displays (HMDs), Virtual Reality (VR) is progressively entering the consumer market. VR systems provide a new way of experiencing virtual content that is richer than radio, or television, yet also different from how we experience the real world. These unprecedented capabilities for creating new content have the potential to profoundly impact our society. However, little is known about how this new scenario may affect users’ behavior, especially in narrative VR: How does one design or edit 3D scenes effectively in order to retain or guide users’ attention? Can we predict users’ behavior and react accordingly? How does one create a satisfactory cinematic VR cinematic experience? On a more fundamental level, our understanding of how to tell stories may have to be revised for VR. To derive conventions for storytelling from first principles, it is crucial to understand how users explore virtual environments and what constitutes attention. Such an understanding would also inform future designs of user interfaces, eye tracking technology, and other key aspects of VR systems.
Abstract: Understanding how humans explore virtual environments is crucial for many applications, such as developing compression algorithms or designing effective cinematic virtual reality (VR) content, as well as to develop predictive computational models. We have recorded 780 head and gaze trajectories from 86 users exploring omnidirectional stereo panoramas using VR head-mounted displays. By analyzing the interplay between visual stimuli, head orientation, and gaze direction, we demonstrate patterns and biases of how people explore these panoramas and we present first steps toward predicting time-dependent saliency. To compare how visual attention and saliency in VR are different from conventional viewing conditions, we have also recorded users observing the same scenes in a desktop setup. Based on this data, we show how to adapt existing saliency predictors to VR, so that insights and tools developed for predicting saliency in desktop scenarios may directly transfer to these immersive applications.
Abstract: Traditional cinematography has relied for over a century on a well-established set of editing rules, called continuity editing, to create a sense of situational continuity. Despite massive changes in visual content across cuts, viewers in general experience no trouble perceiving the discontinuous flow of information as a coherent set of events. However, Virtual Reality (VR) movies are intrinsically different from traditional movies in that the viewer controls the camera orientation at all times. As a consequence, common editing techniques that rely on camera orientations, zooms, etc., cannot be used. In this paper we investigate key relevant questions to understand how well traditional movie editing carries over to VR, such as: Does the perception of continuity hold across edit boundaries? Under which conditions? Does viewers’ observational behavior change after the cuts? To do so, we rely on recent cognition studies and the event segmentation theory, which states that our brains segment continuous actions into a series of discrete, meaningful events. We first replicate one of these studies to assess whether the predictions of such theory can be applied to VR. We next gather gaze data from viewers watching VR videos containing different edits with varying parameters, and provide the first systematic analysis of viewers’ behavior and the perception of continuity in VR. From this analysis we make a series of relevant findings; for instance, our data suggests that predictions from the cognitive event segmentation theory are useful guides for VR editing; that different types of edits are equally well understood in terms of continuity; and that spatial misalignments between regions of interest at the edit boundaries favor a more exploratory behavior even after viewers have fixated on a new region of interest. In addition, we propose a number of metrics to describe viewers’ attentional behavior in VR. We believe the insights derived from our work can be useful as guidelines for VR content creation.
Abstract: With the proliferation of low-cost, consumer level, head-mounted displays (HMDs) such as Oculus VR or Sony’s Morpheus, we are witnessing a reappearance of virtual reality. However, there are still important stumbling blocks that hinder the development of applications and reduce the visual quality of the results. Knowledge of human perception in virtual environments can help overcome these limitations. In this paper, within the much-studied area of perception in virtual environments, we chose to look into the less explored area of crossmodal perception, that is, the interaction of different senses when perceiving the environment. In particular, we looked at the influence of sound on visual motion perception in a virtual reality scenario. We first replicated a well-known crossmodal perception experiment, carried out on a conventional 2D display, and then extended it to a 3D headmounted display (HMD). Next, we performed an additional experiment in which we increased the complexity of the stimuli of the previous experiment, to test whether the effects observed would hold in more realistic scenes. We found that the trend which was previously observed in 2D displays is maintained in HMDs, but with an observed reduction of the crossmodal effect. With more complex stimuli the trend holds, and the crossmodal effect is further reduced, possibly due to the presence of additional visual cues.