Time improves the Virtual Reality experience

  • Date

    Wed 24 Oct 18

Loes Van Dam

The longer you are immersed in a Virtual Reality world, the more realistic it becomes, researchers from the University of Essex have found.

Virtual Reality uses a headset to transport the user into a three-dimensional computer-generated world in which they can take on the role of a character, or perform a series of tasks.


It is fast becoming a tool in our everyday lives, valued not just for its entertainment possibilities but also for its more serious applications, including in education, medicine and business.


It has been used to train pilots, through flight simulation, and soldiers, who can gain battlefield experience, without going near a combat zone. In medicine it has proved effective in pain relief, by distracting attention away from the source of the pain, and in the rehabilitation of stroke patients it is being trialled as a tool to help them regain lost movement.


But as Dr Loes Van Dam, from the Department of Psychology, explained VR has drawbacks.  “Virtual Reality has the potential to transform many aspects of our lives, but to be effective it needs to be realistic. The time delay, between making a movement in the real world, and action being taken in the virtual world, can reduce the user experience and make it more difficult to complete tasks, which could limit its usefulness,” she said.


However, Loes’ research, published in PLOS ONE, has shown that given time, the brain can counteract the detrimental effects of the time-delay. She used laboratory tests to measure whether, over time, people got better at completing tasks, and questionnaires to find out how they felt about the experience.


“We found that not only did participants adapt to the delay, they also reported a better experience. This is really good news for the future of VR, as it opens up so many more possibilities for it to change our lives for the better,” concluded Loes.