Learning Space in Virtual Environments: Understanding the Factors Influencing Training Time

Learning Space in Virtual Environments: Understanding the Factors Influencing Training Time

M. Kyritsis (Brunel University, UK), S. R. Gulliver (University of Reading, UK) and S. Morar (Consultant, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61692-808-7.ch012
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Learning the spatial layout of an environment is essential in application domains including military and emergency personnel training. Traditionally, whilst learning space from a Virtual Environment (VE), identical training time was used for all users - a one size fits all approach to exposure / training time. This chapter, however, identifies both environmental and individual user differences that influence the training time required to ensure effective virtual environment spatial knowledge acquisition (SKA). We introduce the problem of contradicting literature in the area of SKA, and discuss how the amount of exposure time given to a person during VE training is responsible for the feasibility of SKA. We then show how certain individual user differences, as well as environmental factors, impact on the required exposure time that a particular person needs within a specific VE. Individual factors discussed include: the importance of knowledge and experience; the importance of gender; the importance of aptitude and spatial orientation skills; and the importance of cognitive styles. Environmental factors discussed include: Size, Spatial layout complexity and landmark distribution. Since people are different, a one-size fits all approach to training time does not seem logical. The impact of this research domain is important to VE training in general, however within service and military domains ensuring appropriate spatial training is critical in order to ensure that disorientation does not occur in a life / death scenario.
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The Impact Of Training Time

Witmer et al. (1996), Wilson et al. (1996), Waller et al. (1998), and Foreman et al. (2003) all conducted experiments in order to conclude whether spatial knowledge acquisition can be acquired from a VE representation of the real world. These experiments involved a group of participants navigating through virtual space and acquiring spatial knowledge, and then comparing the results to a group that learned the environment through conventional methods such as maps or photographs. These experiments concluded that a VE can be more beneficial than traditional training. However, this is only the case if a long exposure time is given to the users.

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