Judgments of Object Size and Distance across Different Virtual Reality Environments: A Preliminary Study Academic Article uri icon


  • Emerging technologies offer the potential to expand the domain of the future workforce to extreme environments, such as outer space and alien terrains. To understand how humans navigate in such environments that lack familiar spatial cues this study examined spatial perception in three types of environments. The environments were simulated using virtual reality. We examined participants ability to estimate the size and distance of stimuli under conditions of minimal, moderate, or maximum visual cues, corresponding to an environment simulating outer space, an alien terrain, or a typical cityscape, respectively. The findings show underestimation of distance in both the maximum and the minimum visual cue environment but a tendency for overestimation of distance in the moderate environment. We further observed that depth estimation was substantially better in the minimum environment than in the other two environments. However, estimation of height was more accurate in the environment with maximum cues (cityscape) than the environment with minimum cues (outer space). More generally, our results suggest that familiar visual cues facilitated better estimation of size and distance than unfamiliar cues. In fact, the presence of unfamiliar, and perhaps misleading visual cues (characterizing the alien terrain environment), was more disruptive than an environment with a total absence of visual cues for distance and size perception. The findings have implications for training workers to better adapt to extreme environments.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Park, H., Faghihi, N., Dixit, M., Vaid, J., & McNamara, A.

citation count

  • 3

complete list of authors

  • Park, Hannah||Faghihi, Nafiseh||Dixit, Manish||Vaid, Jyotsna||McNamara, Ann

publication date

  • January 2021