Studying the Mental Effort in Virtual Versus Real Environments


Is there an effect of Virtual Reality (VR) Head-Mounted Display (HMD) on the user’s mental effort? In this paper, we compare the mental effort in VR versus in real environments. An experiment (N=27) was conducted to assess the effect of being immersed in a virtual environment (VE) using an HMD on the user’s mental effort while performing a standardized cognitive task (the well-known N-back task, with three levels of difficulty, N ∈ {1,2,3}). In addition to test the effect of the environment (i.e., virtual versus real), we also explored the impact of performing a dual task (i.e., sitting versus walking) in both environments on mental effort. The mental effort was assessed through self-report, task performance, behavioural and physiological measures. In a nutshell, the analysis of all measurements revealed no significant effect of being immersed in the VE on the users’ mental effort. In contrast, natural walking significantly increased the users’ mental effort. Taken together, our results support the fact there is no specific additional mental effort related to the immersion in a VE using a VR HMD.

In IEEE Conference on Virtual Reality and 3D User Interfaces (IEEE VR)
Tiffany Luong
Tiffany Luong

My research is focused on studying user experience using objective indicators (e.g., physiological signals) in VR to understand human cognition and improve human-computer interaction.