Designing Immersive Virtual Environments for Cognitive Learning and Spatial Memory Tasks

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Designing Immersive Virtual Environments for Cognitive Learning and Spatial Memory Tasks

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Virtual reality provides a realistic way to learn at a flexible progression and to develop skills that could be difficult to grasp in the real world. Our hypothesis is that there are certain VR affordances that educators and developers can leverage to build simulated learning experiences that can transform education and training activities. The immersive experience VR provides through real-time interaction, engagement, spatial awareness, visual representations, and media richness is useful for developing experiential learning environments. Watching a dinosaur egg hatch and the development of its complete life cycle in a virtual Jurassic world may provide more visual context than reading a textbook on the life cycle of the same dinosaur. The goal of this study was to better understand which interaction mechanism may be better for the design of immersive virtual learning environments. We investigated the role that natural locomotion and teleportation may have on cognitive and spatial information processing in a virtual environment. The learning space is a virtual cemetery, and it consists of thirteen tombstones with stories about the lives of the residents of spoon river, a fictional town mentioned in Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters. We conducted experiments by placing subjects in four different conditions: teleportation across long distances, walking across long distances, teleportation across short distances and walking across short distances. Our hypotheses are that shorter natural walking paths will produce better outcomes on the cognitive assessments and spatial memory assessments we conducted. Teleportation, while beneficial for navigating virtual reality from a small, confined physical space, may not provide enough continuous spatial updating and therefore may be somewhat detrimental for certain learning environments. We analyzed the results and built a linear regression model to find any association between input and output variables. Our data analysis revealed that: • For definite memory recall and proprioception of the spatial layout of a virtual space, it is better to walk than to teleport. • To visually match objects to their spatial positions, a learning space that is logically investigated through shorter distance movements is better than longer paths. • Strong cognitive understanding is achieved if the learning space properly balances exploration of the environment and discovery of information.


University of Minnesota M.S. thesis.June 2019. Major: Computer Science. Advisor: Peter Willemsen. 1 computer file (PDF); ix, 132 pages.

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Adigun, Christianah. (2019). Designing Immersive Virtual Environments for Cognitive Learning and Spatial Memory Tasks. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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