The concepts of presence and spatial awareness play an important role in virtual reality (VR) games and experiences. One recent study looked at both and evaluated whether the two were directly correlated, which would increase the quality of VR development.

The study was conducted by Dr. Matthew Coxon of York St. John University. It included an experiment with 50 voluntary participants. Partial correlations were calculated between the outcome measures and measures of spatial ability, controlling for age and frequency of game play. This means the subjective and individual interpretations and ability to understand what was seen and experienced probably accounted for some variation in spatial presence during game play.

How did researchers come to this conclusion?

Participants were given a test prior to game play to test their spatial awareness. They then entered the VR environment and the way they reacted to certain scenarios within the environment was analyzed.

The VR situations relied heavily on their spatial awareness within the setting in an effort to engage them in attention-demanding tasks that required active navigation in the environment. Some of the activities included moving within a city environment and boarding and sitting on a train.

Based on the pre-VR tests and the participants’ actions within the VR environment, researchers were unable to pin-point a particular formula for the best and most immersive experience. Individual game players determine how well they are able to become submersed in the game but the VR experience did provide greater insight to results while fully IMMERSED.

After analyzing the study results, researchers acknowledge the information could have a big impact on the quality of gaming, but is limited in many ways. The individual player will determine the overall gaming experience, no matter how well-designed the game might be.

And when it comes to health and fitness goals, the individual’s ability to process presence and spatial awareness will affect how beneficial VR experiences will be in their health journeys. For many, VR could be exactly the “magic pill” needed to reach their goals.


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