virtual object interaction, mixed reality, depth perception, head mounted projection display, direct manipulation


Interacting with a Virtual Environment (VE) generally requires the user to correctly perceive the relative position and orientation of virtual objects. For applications requiring interaction in personal space, the user may also need to accurately judge the position of the virtual object relative to that of a real object, for example, a virtual button and the user's real hand. This is difficult since VEs generally only provide a subset of the cues experienced in the real world. Complicating matters further, VEs presented by currently available visual displays may be inaccurate or distorted due to technological limitations. Fundamental physiological and psychological aspects of vision as they pertain to the task of object manipulation were thoroughly reviewed. Other sensory modalities--proprioception, haptics, and audition--and their cross-interactions with each other and with vision are briefly discussed. Visual display technologies, the primary component of any VE, were canvassed and compared. Current applications and research were gathered and categorized by different VE types and object interaction techniques. While object interaction research abounds in the literature, pockets of research gaps remain. Direct, dexterous, manual interaction with virtual objects in Mixed Reality (MR), where the real, seen hand accurately and effectively interacts with virtual objects, has not yet been fully quantified. An experimental test bed was designed to provide the highest accuracy attainable for salient visual cues in personal space. Optical alignment and user calibration were carefully performed. The test bed accommodated the full continuum of VE types and sensory modalities for comprehensive comparison studies. Experimental designs included two sets, each measuring depth perception and object interaction. The first set addressed the extreme end points of the Reality-Virtuality (R-V) continuum--Immersive Virtual Environment (IVE) and Reality Environment (RE). This validated, linked, and extended several previous research findings, using one common test bed and participant pool. The results provided a proven method and solid reference points for further research. The second set of experiments leveraged the first to explore the full R-V spectrum and included additional, relevant sensory modalities. It consisted of two full-factorial experiments providing for rich data and key insights into the effect of each type of environment and each modality on accuracy and timeliness of virtual object interaction. The empirical results clearly showed that mean depth perception error in personal space was less than four millimeters whether the stimuli presented were real, virtual, or mixed. Likewise, mean error for the simple task of pushing a button was less than four millimeters whether the button was real or virtual. Mean task completion time was less than one second. Key to the high accuracy and quick task performance time observed was the correct presentation of the visual cues, including occlusion, stereoscopy, accommodation, and convergence. With performance results already near optimal level with accurate visual cues presented, adding proprioception, audio, and haptic cues did not significantly improve performance. Recommendations for future research include enhancement of the visual display and further experiments with more complex tasks and additional control variables.


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Graduation Date



Malone, Linda


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Engineering and Computer Science


Industrial Engineering and Management Systems

Degree Program

Industrial Engineering








Release Date

September 2009

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)