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IEEE Trans Vis Comput Graph. 2013 Apr;19(4):597-605. doi: 10.1109/TVCG.2013.29.

Drumming in immersive virtual reality: the body shapes the way we play.

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Event Lab, Facultat de Psicologia, Universitat de Barcelona, Spain.


It has been shown that it is possible to generate perceptual illusions of ownership in immersive virtual reality (IVR) over a virtual body seen from first person perspective, in other words over a body that visually substitutes the person's real body. This can occur even when the virtual body is quite different in appearance from the person's real body. However, investigation of the psychological, behavioral and attitudinal consequences of such body transformations remains an interesting problem with much to be discovered. Thirty six Caucasian people participated in a between-groups experiment where they played a West-African Djembe hand drum while immersed in IVR and with a virtual body that substituted their own. The virtual hand drum was registered with a physical drum. They were alongside a virtual character that played a drum in a supporting, accompanying role. In a baseline condition participants were represented only by plainly shaded white hands, so that they were able merely to play. In the experimental condition they were represented either by a casually dressed dark-skinned virtual body (Casual Dark-Skinned - CD) or by a formal suited light-skinned body (Formal Light-Skinned - FL). Although participants of both groups experienced a strong body ownership illusion towards the virtual body, only those with the CD representation showed significant increases in their movement patterns for drumming compared to the baseline condition and compared with those embodied in the FL body. Moreover, the stronger the illusion of body ownership in the CD condition, the greater this behavioral change. A path analysis showed that the observed behavioral changes were a function of the strength of the illusion of body ownership towards the virtual body and its perceived appropriateness for the drumming task. These results demonstrate that full body ownership illusions can lead to substantial behavioral and possibly cognitive changes depending on the appearance of the virtual body. This could be important for many applications such as learning, education, training, psychotherapy and rehabilitation using IVR.

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