Creating ambience by visual and auditory means
Virtual environments used for visualization and training often do not convey the ambience of a real environment, and the urgency of a serious event. Visual and auditory effects can be used to influence the emotional response of a viewer, and enhance the validity and effectiveness of the application. Virtual environments are used to create convincing environments for training, and visualizations for urban planning. It is important that these environments not only display spatial characteristics, but also elicit affective responses similar to those experienced by a viewer in corresponding real environments. However, on a desktop computer or projection screen much of the visual and auditory information of a real environment is lost. In what way do characteristics of the modeled environment influence the affective response of the viewer, and can we determine this response?
Visual effects (dynamics, illumination) and sounds in a virtual environment affect the viewers' response differently than in a real environment. For instance, adding a lot of dirt to a virtual environment will not automatically lead to a negative response; viewers may find it an interesting element in an otherwise rather sterile and dull environment. Although game technology creates increasingly convincing virtual environments on desktop computers, they are still impoverished versions of reality. Viewers however easily imagine and add information in their minds, which is not present in the model. They decide on for instance season, ambience and materials, using simple cues such as bright colours or plain textures. Modelers can thus influence the ambience of the virtual environments intentionally or unintentionally, while the viewer is not even aware of this. On the other hand, users have to overcome obstacles with navigation and interaction, which creates distractions and diminishes involvement with the environment displayed. As in films, visual elements and sounds that are important must be emphasized and ‘hyper real' to be noticed. To increase the validity of our studies, we used environments that were developed by E-Semble, VSTEP, and Deltares for training and examination purposes.
Our research shows that some very important cues to create a desired ambience in virtual environments, such as darkness, and soundtracks containing real sounds, do not have the expected effect on the viewers' response. We have evidence that these cues are only effective when users are involved with the environment because of personal relevance for them. In our next experiments, we will further explore these issues. To attain the required affective response to any virtual environment, the effects on viewers' responses must be considered during the whole design and development process, taking into account users, tasks, and context of use. At the end of this project we will draw up guide lines for design and evaluation that developers can use to create valid ‘affective' virtual environments.
1.3 CAVA: Creating Ambience by Visual and Auditory Means
TNO Human Factors
Toet, A., Welie, M. van & Houtkamp,J.M. (2009). Is a dark environment scary? CyberPsychology & Behavior, 12(4), 363-371. Houtkamp, J.M., Schuurink, E. & Toet, A. (2008). Thunderstorms in my Computer: The Effect of Visual Dynamics and Sound in a 3D Environment. In M. Bannatyne & J. Counsell (Eds.), Visualisation, 2008 International Conference (pp. 11-17).
Los Alamitos: IEEE Computer Society. Houtkamp, J.M., Spek, E.D. van der & Toet, A. (2007). The influence of lighting on the affective qualities of a virtual theater. In Predicting the Future, 25th eCAADe Conference Proceedings (pp. 77-84). Frankfurt am Main. More publications
Joske Houtkamp, Utrecht University
Alexander Toet, TNO