Virtual reality check
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Virtual reality check: New study sheds light on human-robot interactions in different environments

News from July 13, 2023

Experiments with human-robot interaction can now take place in both real and virtual spaces. The new study Virtual reality check, designed by our scientist Jana Plomin, explores the question of whether robots are perceived and experienced differently in virtual environments.

Today, human-robot interactions (HRI) are not only carried out in the real world: To reduce costs and effort, experiments with human-robot interactions take place in virtual realities or in screen-based formats (2D). In these environments, however, robots may be perceived and experienced differently by test subjects. The new study “Virtual reality check: a comparison of virtual reality, screen-based, and real world settings as research methods for HRI” by HFC Human Factors Consult GmbH gets to the bottom of this phenomenon. It investigates whether trust and engagement differ between different environments when interacting with a mobile service robot.

Museum scenario compares results in different environments

In order to test engagement and confidence building, a museum scenario was created in which human-robot interaction was tested in three environments: The test subjects moved either through a real exhibition, through a recreated exhibition in virtual reality or through an on-screen format similar to a game. This is the first methodological study to systematically compare all three conditions in a completely identical scenario. The recorded movement behaviour in the room (trajectories) and the subjective user experience served as measured values.

The study results indicate that the experimental environment has no significant impact on trust or engagement with the mobile service robot. Thus, both virtual reality and game-based screen formats can be utilised to explore interactions with mobile service robots while keeping costs and effort low, while considering certain specificities of each medium.

Our scientist Jana Plomin contributed her knowledge of user research and virtual reality to the study. The engineering psychologist advises the public sector on the topics of UX, usability and digital accessibility in the Open User Lab at Fraunhofer FOKUS. Her research work focuses on the human-centred design of technology.

Here you can find the detailed study, which was published in the journal “Frontiers in Robotics and AI”.