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Experiences in Virtual Environments - real in the moment?

PhD project A place can be replicated digitally with a high degree of realism. In some video-games the player can explore places in the game. In this PhD-project, we created a sightseeing tour in the VE and let the participants explored the city, and study the experience of the participants .

The motivation of the research is an interest in the experience in virtual environments, the (tele)presence experience. I have formulated these research questions for the work: 1) how can we describe this experience from a theoretical point of view? 2) what is the role of the senses? and 3) what is the relationship between this experience in a VE and behavioral intention? For the empirical work, I have used video-games. The analysis of the data from two studies indicates that many of the participants had the feeling of being there while participating in the sightseeing in the VE. Findings are discussed in four papers; three has been accepted for publications and one is submitted.

Project overview

Project period:

2018-10-15 2020-04-15

Participating departments and units at Umeå University

Department of Informatics

Research subject


Project description

Head of project

Ingvar Tjostheim

Experiences in Virtual Environments - real in the moment?

The motivation for the research is an interest in the experience in virtual environments, the (tele)presence experience and the phenomenon from the theoretical point of view. In the thesis I discuss these questions:

  1. from a theoretical point of view; how can we characterize this telepresence experience? Is the feeling of being there first and foremost an intuitive feeling, something that disappears with reasoning and reflection about the experience?
  2. if the purpose is to measure the experience evoked in VR versus the face-to-face-experience, what is the role of the senses?
  3. Let us assume that we can evoke a place experience in a virtual environment, how should we measure this experience? There are measurmentsmeasurements developed by telepresence researchers for this purpose. However,, but for a place-experiencexperience in a VEe, is it a good alternative to build on theories in human geography, consumer behavior and use concepts from these fields and not only the measurements from telepresence?
  4. what is the relationship between this experience in a VE and behavioral intention? From a theoretical perspective, is the affordance concept a good choice?

Empirical studies.

Videogames with the cities Las Vegas and Los Angeles were used to create a sightseeing experience. The instruction to the participants was: "Now we will travel to a place. You will listen to a guide, and go on a sightseeing tour in the city of Las Vegas/Los Angeles on the screen. After the sightseeing you will fill in a questionnaire about the experience you just had." In total 69 participated in the sightseeing experience.

In the Las Vegas study I used a between subject (groups) research design. The respondents, 69 in total were randomly split into a) the picture group and b) the motion group. A sightseeing experience was created by using scenes from the game PGR4 featuring Las Vegas, in combination with a sequence from an audio guide for travelers. The participants we re randomly assigned to one of the two modes (picture or motion). The main constructs in the measurement model in this study were telepresence, including three sub-constructs, and sense of place, a constructed developed based on Edward Relph's theory in human gogrpagygeography. To analyse the data, I used a PLS-modeling software. The constructs in the model are latent and therefore measured with reflective indicators. As expected, the motion mode interface created a higher telepresence experience than the picture mode interface. An examination of the structural model using (delete:) Smart Smart PLS indicates that the model with the three dependent variables engagement, social presence and perceptual realism e explainsedexplained approximately 51 percent of the variability in sense of place (R 2 = 0.51). A PLS model with a high variance explained (R 2) indicates that the model performesperforms well.

The Los Angeles study with 60 participants was a live sightseeing experience in the video-game Midnight club LA, a playstation game. To analyse that data I chose Partial Least Square (PLS) to model the relationship between a telepresence-concept, an experience of place concept from human geography, a hedonic consumption concept from marketing, and three dependent variables.

In the Los Angeles study, I used the video-game MidnighMidnight Club LA. In total with 6o participate in the sightseeing on the screennts. The experience a user has while visiting a place, including what the person might like to do, is a multifaceted experience. I assume that this experience cannot be fully understood by one single concept. This is one the reasons why I included constructs from different field of research, not only ICT/telepresence. The analysis indicate that the three concepts; telepresence, experience of place and hedonic consumption performed well as methods for capturing the experience in the VE, but with some differences. In multivariate data analysis, the higher the percentage of variance a proposed model manages to explain, the more valid the model seems to be. In the Los Angeles study, the variance explained (R 2) for the models are; : telepresence measurement ->affordance: 0.62 (R 2), the experience place -> intention to visit: 0.4 (R 2), hedonic consumption -> word of mouth 0.53 (R 2). These findings are discussed in four papers.