01/11/2018 Biology Computer Science
DOI: 10.1101/459339 SemanticScholar ID: 196679869 MAG: 2951705030

Studying Human Behaviour with Virtual Reality: The Unity Experiment Framework

Publication Summary

Virtual Reality systems offer a powerful tool for human behaviour research. The ability to create three-dimensional visual scenes and measure responses to the visual stimuli enables the behavioural researcher to test hypotheses in a manner and scale that were previously unfeasible. For example, a researcher wanting to understand interceptive timing behaviour might wish to violate Newtonian mechanics, so objects move in novel 3D trajectories. The same researcher may wish to collect such data with hundreds of participants outside the laboratory (e.g. in a museum), and the use of a VR headset makes this a realistic proposition. The difficulty facing the researcher is that sophisticated 3D graphics engines (such as Unity) have been created for game designers rather than behavioural scientists. In order to overcome this barrier, we have created a set of tools and programming syntaxes that allow logical encoding of the common experimental features required by the behavioural scientist. The Unity Experimental Framework (UXF) allows the researcher to readily implement several forms of data collection, and provides researchers with the ability to easily modify independent variables. UXF does not offer any stimulus presentation features, so the full power of the Unity game engine can be exploited. We use a case study to show how UXF can support behavioural research and remote deployment of experiments (where data are streamed over the internet and accessed later by researchers). In summary, UXF presents an opportunity to simplify and speed up development of virtual reality experiments created in commercial VR software.

CAER Authors

Avatar Image for Mark Mon-Williams

Prof. Mark Mon-Williams

University of Leeds - Chair in Cognitive Psychology

Avatar Image for Faisal Mushtaq

Dr. Faisal Mushtaq

University of Leeds - Associate Professor in Cognitive Neuroscience

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