Epic Games is at the forefront of virtual reality, with their Unreal Engine leading the way for developers on Oculus Rift and other head-mounted displays. They came to the User Experience class at North Carolina State University for research on what made for the best virtual reality experience. Our research in this emerging field will inform the beginnings of virtual reality experiences once the technology becomes widely accepted.
Through my User Experience class at NC State University, I got the opportunity to do research on which factors provide the best experience in virtual reality environments for Epic Games. Our team studied the effect of user-controlled motion on the user’s virtual reality experience. To do this, we set up an experiment in which users had either active control (they control their own motion) or passive control (the experimenter controls the user’s motion) within a virtual environment.
Our hypothesis was that active control would make for a better, more engaging experience in all cases. We tested this across different types of control, and tested users’ engagement through a standardized Game Engagement Questionnaire. This survey separated engagement into four distinct measures: absorption, flow, immersion, and presence.
We found that while users reported higher scores for absorption and immersion in the active control scenario, they reported lower scores for flow and presence in the same trials. Comparison against other research in the field led us to conclude that a hybrid form of control – a pilot/co-pilot relationship between the user and their environment – is actually best for introducing people to virtual reality experiences.
We presented these findings to the User Experience team at Epic Games during a visit to their headquarters in Cary, NC. While there, we got a tour of the facility and even got the chance to fanboy out a bit when presented with a larger-than-life statue from their hit series, Gears of War.