Using VR technology to study human behaviour
We develop our tasks using the Unity Experiment Framework to allow us to perform novel tests of human behaviour at scale. Below are some examples:
This task examines the interceptive timing ability of children and adults. Crucially, VR allows the task to be made 3D - which means we can more reliably discern spatial and temporal errors separately. The gamification of the interceptive timing task means children enjoy taking part in the studies.
To investigate how humans interact with cluttered environments, UXF was used to create a scenario where participants move obstacles on a table to reach a target and retrieve it to an end point.
Intrinsic vs extrinsic costs in sensorimotor decision making
Here we present participants with a series of choices between two objects. These objects differ in their extrinsic costs in terms of number of stars (i.e. points), and also their intrinsic costs because they have certain distance and timing constraints.
Postural sway assessment tool
This task measures the participant's head position across three conditions: vision, no vision, and the oscillating room intervention. VR makes these manipulations easy, and allows researchers to examine the participants ability to use vision to adjust balance. This project is available free & open source.
How do different types of errors (selection error, movement error) change the way we learn about our world? In this experiment, participants must physically swipe through one of two targets. Virtual Reality allows us to easily manipulate the rate of movement errors the participant believes they are making, by hiding the position of the hand when needed.
Reach-to-grasp behaviours have been studied for decades, but only recently VR has allowed new experiments to be created. Here, we examine the effects of removing haptics or vision of the hand when reaching for an object.
Handwriting is an important life skill, but many children underperform. Here a simple handwriting task was developed that allows children to virtually practice handwriting with haptic interventions that potentially improve learning rate. The Unity application communicates to a Phantom Omni haptic pen system. We tested this in a primary school, which was then featured on the BBC Inside Out program.
A great challenge in learning is understanding generalisation. Humans and other animals manage to quickly generalise abilities learned in one domain to another one. Virtual Reality poses a massive opportunity for training of skills ranging from surgery to customer service. For this to be useful, the skills learned in VR need to transfer to the real world. We are using this virtual reality golf task to examine how we generalise skills learned in one medium to another.
A common motor learning experiment paradigm involves applying a transformation to the environment, such that movements are mapped to a cursor position in a novel way. Here a VR version of this task opens up the possibility of developing interesting new interventions, and running these types of experiments on a larger scale.
Paired associates memorisation
Memorising a pair of objects, and then recalling the second object after being prompted with the first, is a common way of measuring memory. This is a VR version of this task, which uses realistic 3D objects rather than the classic image or word based tests in an attempt to be more ecologically valid. We use this task to examine the effects of sleep interventions on memory performance.