Vir­tu­al envir­on­ments are the assembly of a vari­ety of hard­ware and soft­ware tech­no­lo­gies with the pur­pose of immers­ing the user with­in an inter­act­ive com­puter-gen­er­ated illu­sion. Due to the nature of the tech­no­lo­gies, this illu­sion is a first-per­son ego­centric view of an envir­on­ment that is “life-like” in scale, beha­viour and inter­ac­tion. For example, when one turns one’s head, the graph­ics and audio “move” as the real world does nor­mally. Ideally this illu­sion cre­ates, for the par­ti­cipant, a sense of “pres­ence”, such that they believe, they can, and they do inter­act with this illu­sion in a sim­il­ar man­ner to what they would do if exper­i­en­cing a sim­il­ar real situ­ation.


There is a long tech­nic­al his­tory to such illu­sions but there is also a cor­res­pond­ingly long devel­op­ment of an under­stand­ing about how and why such illu­sions occur. Vir­tu­al envir­on­ments are thus an excit­ing tech­no­logy to study in and of them­selves, because they cre­ate inter­est­ing illu­sions, but our group is more inter­ested in what types of tech­no­logy and media most eas­ily cre­ate this illu­sions. Our group’s own under­stand­ing of pres­ence has evolved over time, as we have built bet­ter tech­no­logy, but more import­antly as we’ve learned how to start meas­ur­ing responses of users.