Assessment of Virtual Reality Systems

Man looking at zeros and ones with virtual reality gear

There has been an increased interest in virtual reality which has led to some exciting new developments for society as a whole. This technology is viewed as a serious contender rather than something which belongs in sci-fi films and games only.

Virtual reality has a wide range of applications which range from gaming and entertainment through to medicine, engineering, military training, scientific visualisation and business.

But as with any technology, there are issues regarding the usability of this system. How ‘user friendly’ is virtual reality and how is it assessed?

Usability is discussed in more detail in the Human factors and user studies article.

Virtual reality relies upon interaction which is done via an input device such as a data glove, wand, joystick or other type of controller. In this sense, VR can be viewed as a form of human-computer interaction (HCI) in which information flows between the user (person) and the technology. But the aim with HCI is to enable people or users to use the technology to achieve a goal easily and effectively.

How to measure effective virtual reality systems

Does virtual reality do this? Does it fit into the category of ‘ease of use’ and how do we measure its effectiveness?

The problem is that existing usability guidelines are designed for standard user interfaces such as a desktop computer in which the user interacts with information in a two dimensional space.

But virtual reality is a 3D system which enables users to interact with objects with a computer generated environment, often utilising their senses as well. The aim is to generate an experience which is indistinguishable from the real world.

The issue is that of developing usability guidelines for virtual reality systems which ensure that they are easy to use, effective and efficient. Virtual reality has its own particular issues which require a different approach to that used for other interactive systems.

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