The human response to virtual reality

What does neuroscience tell us about the experience of meeting people in VR?

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Facebook commissioned neuroscience consultancy Neurons Inc to explore how people respond emotionally and cognitively to conversations with a stranger.

60 participants who had never met were paired up.  Half had a ‘real life’ conversation.  The other half had a VR conversation via an Oculus Rift headset. All participants wore an EEG headset that analysed their brain signals. The VR participants interacted in a virtual train carriage – the type of space where any of us might converse with a stranger.

The results are fascinating.  They show just how comfortable people were in their VR conversations and that introverts in particular felt they were able to establish authentic connections with strangers. 

The EEG results showed that VR participants were within the 'optimal range of cognitive effort' – in other words they were neither bored nor overstimulated – and were in the ideal zone for remembering and processing information.  And the time went quickly.  Participants talked for 20 minutes, but on average felt they had only talked for 13 minutes.

We are still some way away from widespread adoption of VR technologies, but 360 video are stepping stone technologies that are already being widely used.

You can see a video of the experiment here

Source: Social Media Today; Facebook Insights