Allison Huang

UC Santa Barbara
Computer Science

Assessing Virtual Environments as Measures of Navigation Ability

Spatial navigation, which involves learning the layout of an environment and applying the knowledge to go from one location to another, is one of the most important, everyday aspects of human behavior. Recent technological advancements have led to the emergence of virtual reality as a viable way of conducting large-scale navigation studies that model navigation in real-world environments while maintaining a high level of experimental control. For example, Virtual SILCton is a Virtual Environment (VE) where participants are expected to learn how buildings on different paths in an environment relate to each other. Yet more research needs to be done on how these VEs can be used as measures of navigation ability. We aim to understand how spatial learning in different VEs relate to each other and other measures of spatial ability. We have designed a pilot study (N=40) comparing performance on Virtual SILCton with a small-scale perspective taking task and self-report measures, such as sense of direction, spatial anxiety, and exploration tendency. Additionally, we have made progress in developing a new version of  SILCton that will eventually be tested against the original to assess the validity of the task. We have also performed preliminary conceptual analyses on how different VEs relate to one another. The insights from this project will be used in further studies to formulate hypotheses about the relationships between VEs and also aid further research on how different VEs can be used in spatial cognition studies.

UC Santa Barbara Center for Science and Engineering Partnerships UCSB California NanoSystems Institute