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Span J Psychol. 2006 Nov;9(2):321-31.

Visual distance estimation in static compared to moving virtual scenes.

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  • 1Allgemeine und angewandte Psychologie, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster, 48149 Münster, Germany.


Visual motion is used to control direction and speed of self-motion and time-to-contact with an obstacle. In earlier work, we found that human subjects can discriminate between the distances of different visually simulated self-motions in a virtual scene. Distance indication in terms of an exocentric interval adjustment task, however, revealed linear correlation between perceived and indicated distances but with a profound distance underestimation. One possible explanation for this underestimation is the perception of visual space in virtual environments. Humans perceive visual space in natural scenes as curved, and distances are increasingly underestimated with increasing distance from the observer. Such spatial compression may also exist in our virtual environment. We therefore surveyed perceived visual space in a static virtual scene. We asked observers to compare two horizontal depth intervals, similar to experiments performed in natural space. Subjects had to indicate the size of one depth interval relative to a second interval. Our observers perceived visual space in the virtual environment as compressed, similar to the perception found in natural scenes. However, the nonlinear depth function we found can not explain the observed distance underestimation of visual simulated self-motions in the same environment.

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