Researchers from Bournemouth University have used virtual reality (VR) to unpick the factors that influence how we respond to new experiences.
The live experiment took place at London’s Science Museum, with sensors built into a VR headset to provide feedback on the user’s emotional state as they responded to different scenarios.
The research project was conducted in collaboration with technology company Emteq and is thought to have been the largest ever study with VR using physiological sensors.
The study was led by Dr Charles Nduka, Chief Scientific Officer at EMTEQ LTD, a VR company based at the Sussex Innovation Centre. The Bournemouth University team consisted of EngD candidate Ifigeneia Mavridou, and Dr Ellen Seiss, Theodoros Kostoulas and Emili Balaguer-Ballester.
The research explored the capabilities of VR to uncover the skills, capabilities and competencies of users as they explore virtual scenes. It was conducted by Ifigeneia Mavridou, an Engineering Doctorate student at BU's Centre for Digital Entertainment, currently holding an industrial placement with Emteq.
Dr Ellen Seiss, Deputy Head of Research in the Department of Psychology, Bournemouth University, said: “Virtual reality offers an opportunity to have a virtual laboratory to study human behaviours. There is promising evidence that VR could be very useful to study the interaction between emotion and cognition.
“This could help treatment several mental health disorders with emotional regulation deficits such as anxiety related disorders. This research will begin that process of discovery.”
Dr Charles Nduka, research lead and co-founder of Emteq, added: “Developing new treatments requires an understanding of the range of “normal’ responses to interventions, particularly for important healthcare issues such as anxiety and depression. In the past, members of the public contributed to the human genome project, which in turn has enabled many new treatments to be developed.
"We hope that we will begin the process of understanding the range of behavioural responses that will act as a baseline for future research and treatments of mental health conditions.”