Changes of locomotion speed affect distance estimations in virtual reality
Modern Virtual Reality (VR) applications often use artificial locomotion to allow users to travel distances within VR space that exceed the available space used to transfer real-world and real-time motion into the virtual environment. The locomotion speed is usually not fixed and can be selected dynamically by the user. Due to motion adaptation effects, variations of locomotion speed could affect how distances in VR are perceived. In the context of cartographic VR applications aimed to experience and communicate spatial information, such effects on distance perception could be problematic, because they might lead to distortions in cognitive representations of space acquired via interaction with VR environments. By conducting a VR-based distance estimation study, we demonstrate how changes of artificial locomotion speed affect distance estimations in VR. Increasing locomotion speeds after letting users adapt to a lower locomotion speed led to lower distance estimations and decreasing locomotion speeds led to higher distance estimations. These findings should sensitize VR developers to consider the choice of applied locomotion techniques when a developed VR application is supposed to communicate distance information or to support the acquisition of a cognitive representation of geographic space.