Research in Virtual Reality (RIVR)

Using VR to Close the Gap Between Lab and Reality

Lead: Alan Kingstone

Like much of the human behaviour researchers on campus, Dr. Alan Kingstone's research is focused on understanding how everyday perceptions, cognitions, emotions, and human actions, can be studied in controlled laboratory situations.  Unfortunately, by distilling dynamic, rich multisensory real-life environments into simplified lab situations, one risks excluding variables that ultimately invalidate the lab-based findings when they are scaled back to real-life situations.  VR offers researches a way to close this gap between life and lab, by enabling them to manipulate items in a controlled space that can accurately simulate real-life environments. 

The aim. Kingstone's lab - the Brain, attention, and reality lab (Barlab) - and several labs in Kinesiology (PIs: Carpenter, Chua, Hodges, Inglis) have met several times this past summer and fall, as they are all beginning to develop VR environments that will enable us to examine the way human cognition, emotion, and behavioural systems change in response to variation in the environment.  For instance, how are the eyes, head, and trunk coordinated when one explores and acts on a 3D environment? Or how do people modify their thoughts and behaviours when placed in precarious situations?

To avoid duplication, and benefit from the shared skills of the different goups, we are working towards:

(1) identifying the common ways that VR can be used by multiple research teams, and
(2) the development of generic software that can serve as resource asset for multiple research teams.

These goals will be of interest to other research labs as well, including several in Computer Science (e.g., Maclean, McGrenere, van de Panne, Yoon).

First steps. To meet these two needs, the request is for kickstart support for 6 workshops that will bring together different research labs to:

(a) share ways that they want to use VR as a research tool, with the aim of identifying common needs; and
(b) begin to create VR software assets that can be shared between and by all researchers.