The Plausibility Paradox for Resized Users in Virtual Environments

This paper identifies and confirms a perceptual phenomenon: when users interact with simulated objects in a virtual environment where the users’ scale deviates greatly from normal, there is a mismatch between the object physics they consider realistic and the object physics that would be correct at that scale. We report the findings of two studies investigating the relationship between perceived realism and a physically accurate approximation of reality in a virtual reality experience in which the user has been scaled by a factor of ten. Study 1 investigated perception of physics when scaled-down by a factor of ten, whereas Study 2 focused on enlargement by a similar amount. Studies were carried out as within-subjects experiments in which a total of 84 subjects performed simple interaction tasks with objects under two different physics simulation conditions. In the true physics condition, the objects, when dropped and thrown, behaved accurately according to the physics that would be correct at that either reduced or enlarged scale in the real world. In the movie physics condition, the objects behaved in a similar manner as they would if no scaling of the user had occurred. We found that a significant majority of the users considered the movie physics condition to be the more realistic one. However, at enlarged scale, many users considered true physics to match their expectations even if they ultimately believed movie physics to be the realistic condition. We argue that our findings have implications for many virtual reality and telepresence applications involving operation with simulated or physical objects in abnormal and especially small scales.