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Better Presence and Performance in Virtual Environments by Improved Binaural Sound Rendering

The development of Virtual Reality (VR) technology has mainly focused on creating sensory cues for the visual modality. It is hypothesized that adding aural sensory cues to a Virtual Environment (VE) raises the experience of presence perceived by the user. Two experiments were carried out in order to investigate potential benefits of using (high quality, congruent) auditory rendering in VEs. In Experiment 1, 40 subjects were assigned either to a unimodal (vision only) or a bimodal (vision and hearing) VE. The subjects performed two memory- and navigation tasks in succession. After the completion of the tasks, subjects rated presence, awareness of external factors, enjoyment and simulation sickness. Completion time for both tasks was measured. Statistical analysis showed that the auditory information yielded a significant effect in the second memory task. Ratings showed that subjects in the bimodal condition experienced significantly higher presence, were more focused on the situation and enjoyed the VE more than subjects receiving unimodal information did. In experiment 2, 40 subjects were assigned to either a high-quality auralization VE or a low-quality auralization VE. The subjects performed the same tasks and ratings as in experiment 1. In addition, three sound quality items were used. Statistical analysis showed that subjects in the high quality condition experienced a higher degree of presence, perceived the sound as adding more to the overall experience and could more easily localize the sound. No significant difference in memory performance was found. The results indicate that high quality auditory information may greatly improve the overall performance of the VE and in some cases improve task performance

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