Interaction with virtual crowd in Immersive and semi‐Immersive Virtual Reality systems
This study examines attributes of virtual human behavior that may increase the plausibility of a simulated crowd and affect the user's experience in Virtual Reality. Purpose-developed experiments in both Immersive and semi-Immersive Virtual Reality systems queried the impact of collision and basic interaction between real-users and the virtual crowd and their effect on the apparent realism and ease of navigation within Virtual Reality (VR). Participants' behavior and subjective measurements indicated that facilitating collision avoidance between the user and the virtual crowd makes the virtual characters, the environment, and the whole Virtual Reality system appear more realistic and lifelike. Adding basic social interaction, such as verbal salutations, gaze, and other gestures by the virtual characters towards the user, further contributes to this effect, with the participants reporting a stronger sense of presence. On the other hand, enabling collision avoidance on its own produces a reduced feeling of comfort and ease of navigation in VR. Objective measurements showed another interesting finding that collision avoidance may reduce the user's performance regarding their primary goal (navigating in VR following someone) and that this performance is further reduced when both collision avoidance and social interaction are facilitated.