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  1. Stationarity perception refers to the ability to accurately perceive the surrounding visual environment as world-fixed during self-motion. Perception of stationarity depends on mechanisms that evaluate the congruence between retinal/oculomotor signals and head movement signals. In a series of psychophysical experiments, we systematically varied the congruence between retinal/oculomotor and head movement signals to find the range of visual gains that is compatible with perception of a stationary environment. On each trial, human subjects wearing a head-mounted display execute a yaw head movement and report whether the visual gain was perceived to be too slow or fast. A psychometric fit to the data across trials reveals the visual gain most compatible with stationarity (a measure of accuracy) and the sensitivity to visual gain manipulation (a measure of precision). Across experiments, we varied 1) the spatial frequency of the visual stimulus, 2) the retinal location of the visual stimulus (central vs. peripheral), and 3) fixation behavior (scene-fixed vs. head-fixed). Stationarity perception is most precise and accurate during scene-fixed fixation. Effects of spatial frequency and retinal stimulus location become evident during head-fixed fixation, when retinal image motion is increased. Virtual Reality sickness assessed using the Simulator Sickness Questionnaire covaries with perceptual performance. Decreased accuracy is associated with an increase in the nausea subscore, while decreased precision is associated with an increase in the oculomotor and disorientation subscores. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 4, 2024
  2. Abstract

    Head movement relative to the stationary environment gives rise to congruent vestibular and visual optic-flow signals. The resulting perception of a stationary visual environment, referred to herein as stationarity perception, depends on mechanisms that compare visual and vestibular signals to evaluate their congruence. Here we investigate the functioning of these mechanisms and their dependence on fixation behavior as well as on the activeversuspassive nature of the head movement. Stationarity perception was measured by modifying the gain on visual motion relative to head movement on individual trials and asking subjects to report whether the gain was too low or too high. Fitting a psychometric function to the data yields two key parameters of performance. The mean is a measure of accuracy, and the standard deviation is a measure of precision. Experiments were conducted using a head-mounted display with fixation behavior monitored by an embedded eye tracker. During active conditions, subjects rotated their heads in yaw ∼15 deg/s over ∼1 s. Each subject’s movements were recorded and played backviarotating chair during the passive condition. During head-fixed and scene-fixed fixation the fixation target moved with the head or scene, respectively. Both precision and accuracy were better during active than passive head movement, likely due to increased precision on the head movement estimate arising from motor prediction and neck proprioception. Performance was also better during scene-fixed than head-fixed fixation, perhaps due to decreased velocity of retinal image motion and increased precision on the retinal image motion estimate. These results reveal how the nature of head and eye movements mediate encoding, processing, and comparison of relevant sensory and motor signals.

     
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available October 13, 2024
  3. Abstract

    Head orientation relative to gravity determines how gravity-dependent environmental structure is sampled by the visual system, as well as how gravity itself is sampled by the vestibular system. Therefore, both visual and vestibular sensory processing should be shaped by the statistics of head orientation relative to gravity. Here we report the statistics of human head orientation during unconstrained natural activities in humans for the first time, and we explore implications for models of vestibular processing. We find that the distribution of head pitch is more variable than head roll and that the head pitch distribution is asymmetrical with an over-representation of downward head pitch, consistent with ground-looking behavior. We further suggest that pitch and roll distributions can be used as empirical priors in a Bayesian framework to explain previously measured biases in perception of both roll and pitch. Gravitational and inertial acceleration stimulate the otoliths in an equivalent manner, so we also analyze the dynamics of human head orientation to better understand how knowledge of these dynamics can constrain solutions to the problem of gravitoinertial ambiguity. Gravitational acceleration dominates at low frequencies and inertial acceleration dominates at higher frequencies. The change in relative power of gravitational and inertial components as a function of frequency places empirical constraints on dynamic models of vestibular processing, including both frequency segregation and probabilistic internal model accounts. We conclude with a discussion of methodological considerations and scientific and applied domains that will benefit from continued measurement and analysis of natural head movements moving forward.

     
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  4. Abstract

    Eye tracking is becoming increasingly available in head-mounted virtual reality displays with various headsets with integrated eye trackers already commercially available. The applications of eye tracking in virtual reality are highly diversified and span multiple disciplines. As a result, the number of peer-reviewed publications that study eye tracking applications has surged in recent years. We performed a broad review to comprehensively search academic literature databases with the aim of assessing the extent of published research dealing with applications of eye tracking in virtual reality, and highlighting challenges, limitations and areas for future research.

     
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  5. VR sickness is a major concern for many users as VR continues its expansion towards widespread everyday use. VR sickness is thought to arise, at least in part, due to the user’s intolerance of conflict between the visually simulated self-motion and actual physical movement. Many mitigation strategies involve consistently modifying the visual stimulus to reduce its impact on the user, but this individualized approach can have drawbacks in terms of complexity of implementation and non-uniformity of user experience. This study presents a novel alternative approach that involves training the user to better tolerate the adverse stimulus by tapping into natural adaptive perceptual mechanisms. In this study, we recruited users with limited VR experience that reported susceptibility to VR sickness. Baseline sickness was measured as participants navigated a rich and naturalistic visual environment. Then, on successive days, participants were exposed to optic flow in a more abstract visual environment, and strength of the optic flow was successively increased by increasing the visual contrast of the scene, because strength of optic flow and the resulting vection are thought to be major causes of VR sickness. Sickness measures decreased on successive days, indicating that adaptation was successful. On the final day, participants were again exposed to the rich and naturalistic visual environment, and the adaptation was maintained, demonstrating that it is possible for adaptation to transfer from more abstract to richer and more naturalistic environments. These results demonstrate that gradual adaptation to increasing optic flow strength in well-controlled, abstract environments allows users to gradually reduce their susceptibility to sickness, thereby increasing VR accessibility for those prone to sickness. 
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    Women are more likely to experience virtual reality (VR) sickness than men, which could pose a major challenge to the mass market success of VR. Because VR sickness often results from a visual-vestibular conflict, an effective strategy to mitigate conflict is to restrict the user’s field-of-view (FOV) during locomotion. Sex differences in spatial cognition have been well researched, with several studies reporting that men exhibit better spatial navigation performance in desktop three-dimensional environments than women. However, additional research suggests that this sex difference can be mitigated by providing a larger FOV as this increases the availability of landmarks, which women tend to rely on more than men. Though FOV restriction is already a widely used strategy for VR headsets to minimize VR sickness, it is currently not well understood if it impedes spatial learning in women due to decreased availability of landmarks. Our study (n=28, 14 men and 14 women) found that a dynamic FOV restrictor was equally effective in reducing VR sickness in both sexes, and no sex differences in VR sickness incidence were found. Our study did find a sex difference in spatial learning ability, but an FOV restrictor did not impede spatial learning in either sex. 
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  10. As virtual reality (VR) garners more attention for eye tracking research, knowledge of accuracy and precision of head-mounted display (HMD) based eye trackers becomes increasingly necessary. It is tempting to rely on manufacturer-provided information about the accuracy and precision of an eye tracker. However, unless data is collected under ideal conditions, these values seldom align with on-site metrics. Therefore, best practices dictate that accuracy and precision should be measured and reported for each study. To address this issue, we provide a novel open-source suite for rigorously measuring accuracy and precision for use with a variety of HMD-based eye trackers. This tool is customizable without having to alter the source code, but changes to the code allow for further alteration. The outputs are available in real time and easy to interpret, making eye tracking with VR more approachable for all users. 
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