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The VR space at the AVB
Project Type: Prototype VR simulation developed for the NINR Advanced Visualization Branch at NIH.
Date: Summer 2019
Purpose: To facilitate behavioral research on food selection behavior.
My Role: I built the whole prototype.
VR Specs: A room-scale VR experience developed for the HTC Vive Pro with two Vive Wand controllers.
Unique considerations for research:
Accessibility and comfort are key - most people have never experienced VR, of course, but for broad behavioral research like this, you have to assume that many of your subjects have never even held a game controller. Interactions must be simple
For example, the objects don't have physics. That would likely be disorienting to a lot of subjects, and it could also be too entertaining/distracting to throw stuff around.
I also wanted to avoid artificial locomotion, so I designed the store as compactly as possible to fit within the real physical space. That's why it ended up being a square convenience-style store like that.
I wanted to avoid non-diegetic UI elements, so information is presented more naturally within the space. Products have relevant nutritional information on the back (eventually these should look like real nutritional labels), which also means that the user has to decide to take the time to read it, like during real shopping. A "receipt" is given at checkout so the user can get a final overview of their purchases.
VR has several advantages over traditional research methodologies when it comes to complex behaviors like food selection.
It is much cheaper to make a VR grocery store than to construct a real one in the lab.
All variables in VR are totally controlled, which is impossible in a real grocery store.
VR makes it very easy to automatically collect a huge amount of very precise data.
I also gave a poster presentation on the development of VR environments for behavioral research!