Virtual reality is not suited to visual memory

Summary: Study reports virtual reality may interfere with visual memory.

Source: Toyohashi University of Technology

Kyoko Hine, Assistant Professor at the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, Toyohashi University of Technology and a research team at Tokyo Denki University have found that virtual reality (VR) may interfere with visual memory. In recent years, there has been a high expectation that VR will be used effectively not only in multimedia and entertainment but also in educational settings. However, in order to benefit society, IT needs to take human characteristics into consideration. The nature of VR can become known through scientific verification based on experiments like the work undertaken in this research.

In recent years, head-mounted displays (HMD) have become commonplace, and experiencing VR has become commonplace. VR moves the displayed images to match the movement of the user, creating a high sense of realism and enhanced immersion. For this reason, hopes have been raised that VR can be used as a new tool for efficient learning because it attracts children’s attention even in educational settings. However, there has been no scientific verification of the effects of VR visual memory.

Therefore, the research team conducted an experiment using HMDs and examined the effects of VR on memory. In the experiment, the participants visited a museum virtually and looked at paintings. After that, a memory test was conducted about the paintings. With regard to the VR experience, the research team set up conditions such that one group viewed images linked to their movements on an HMD (active VR) and a second group watched another person’s VR video on a display (passive VR). In other words, underactive VR, the participants could look around at the surroundings themselves, but under passive VR, the participants could not look around. Comparing the results of the memory test for these two groups, the results were worse for the active VR group. From this, it became clear for the first time in the world that VR may interfere with visual memory due to the way it moves images in conjunction with user movement.

The reason may be that the enhanced sense of realism and immersion created by the ability to look around freely, that is characteristic of VR, tires the brain and consequently prevents the formation of visual memory. While there are high hopes for VR technology as an educational tool that attracts users, and children, in particular, it is important to create teaching materials that take into account these characteristics of VR. Society will require the development of IT that considers human characteristics more than ever in the coming years.

This shows a scene on VR glasses

VR scene. Image is credited to Toyohashi University of Technology.

The museum was reproduced and photographed in VR by the research team. It was a challenge to make the preparations to secure a quiet and appropriate space for viewing the paintings. In addition, the team took 10 minutes of video. The videos had to be re-shot many times because it was necessary to secure an appropriate viewing angle to view and remember the paintings for the whole 10 minutes. As a result of these efforts, the team was able to produce good quality VR images for the experiment.

The team wants to find out why visual memory is hindered when the participants can look around freely in VR. Moving forward, the team hopes to offer suggestions on how to use VR as a better learning tool by removing the causes of this phenomenon.

About this memory research article

Toyohashi University of Technology
Media Contacts:
Yuko Ito – Toyohashi University of Technology
Image Source:
The image is credited to Toyohashi University of Technology.

Original Research: Open access
“Active View and Passive View in Virtual Reality Have Different Impacts on Memory and Impression”. Hine K. & Tasaki H.
Frontiers in Psychology doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02416.


Active View and Passive View in Virtual Reality Have Different Impacts on Memory and Impression

Virtual reality (VR) through a head-mounted display (HMD) can provide new experiences. However, it remains unclear how the characteristics of HMDs affect users’ memory. To use HMDs more effectively and appropriately in several applied fields, including education, it is necessary to clarify what characteristics of HMDs affect users’ memory. A head-tracking function mounted on an HMD helps to detect the user’s head direction to enable a simulation experience akin to the real world. When we experience a simulation on an HMD, we actively perceive the visual world. In this study, we assessed how active/passive viewing affects users’ memory of VR content. We conducted a psychological experiment in which participants watched a movie on an HMD. In the active viewing condition, the presented view changed depending on the participant’s head direction. In the passive viewing condition, the presented view was a recorded movie that was shown to the participants in the active viewing condition. All participants took a memory test about the content presented in the movie on the day of viewing and 2 weeks later. The results showed that performance on the memory test in the active viewing condition was significantly lower than that in the passive viewing condition after 2 weeks. This result indicated that active viewing in VR inhibited users’ memory compared to passive viewing. The current study contributes to the development of new VR techniques, such as educational learning.

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