Immersive experiences, VR technology, and companion animals: Reflections on a collaborative experimental multi-site study on human emotion

Authors: Martin Swobodzinski*, Portland State University
Topics: Behavioral Geography, Geographic Information Science and Systems, Quantitative Methods
Keywords: virtual reality, human emotion, companion animals, geovisualization
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 5:00 PM / 6:40 PM
Room: Roosevelt 7, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The last four decades have brought about a myriad of research on virtual-reality (VR) technology and content. Over the last few years, in particular, we have witnessed a rapid proliferation of affordable off-the-shelf VR devices that provide for increasingly realistic, life-like sensorimotor experiences of virtual environments. In this talk, I reflect on a collaborative lab-based multi-site study that investigates whether individual experiences of positively-valenced media induces positive psychological and physiological responses in relation to the immersiveness of the medium. More specifically, our study aims at identifying whether multimodal stimulus control promotes positive changes in emotions and physiological response in people observing playful interactions of animals across different media. The study employs N = 240 participants who are randomly assigned to one of twelve experimental conditions across three factors: 1. modality of experience (i.e., head-mounted display, computer monitor, and photo book), 2. presence or absence of an auditory stimulus (i.e., digital recordings of dog sounds), and 3. presence or absence of a tactile stimulus (i.e., stuffed animal). In addition to summarizing our preliminary results, I shall also discuss major experiences and challenges related to our study in regard to working with live animals, research integrity requirements, the production of stimulus materials, and experimentation across multiple institutions.

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