Last February 2008 the American National Academy of Engineering presented 14 topics identified as the grand challenges of the 21st century that should be solved to improve the quality of life in the coming years. Among them, is the challenge “Enhancing Virtual Reality” , which highlights the high potential of investigating what makes an immersive interaction a truly effective means of uncovering new knowledge.
In this context our vision is to make possible intuitive and transparent full-body interactions for potentially complex information spaces, be it a virtual prototype for high tech industries, a highly dynamic simulated train station bursting with commuters, or even an abstract space. The user must be able to react as if the virtual environment were real, even if it is not realistic ; this is the general goal of Presence.
This goal brings in the key related question: where should the computing resources be allocated to enforce and preserve the user involvement. To answer this question the VR field needs to open its technology-oriented focus to share some of the issues tackled by the field of psychophysics and adopt their experimental protocols.
The synergy offered by this interdisciplinary approach will open a new field of immersive psychophysics studies with direct application in mind (e.g. virtual prototyping) but also offer methodological guarantees about the related findings.