The study of walking, walkability and wellbeing in immersive virtual environments

Amit Birenboim, Pazit Ben Nun Bloom, Hila Levit, Itzhak Omer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Recent approaches in the research on walkable environments and wellbeing go beyond correlational analysis to consider the specific characteristics of individuals and their interaction with the immediate environment. Accordingly, a need has been accentuated for new human-centered methods to improve our understanding of the mechanisms underlying environmental effects on walking and consequently on wellbeing. Immersive virtual environments (IVEs) were suggested as a potential method that can advance this type of research as they offer a unique combination between controlled experimental environments that allow drawing causal conclusions and a high level of environmental realism that supports ecological validity. The current study pilot tested a walking simulator with additional sensor technologies, including biosensors, eye tracking and gait sensors. Results found IVEs to facilitate extremely high tempo-spatial-resolution measurement of physical walking parameters (e.g., speed, number of gaits) along with walking experience and wellbeing (e.g., electrodermal activity, heartrate). This level of resolution is useful in linking specific environmental stimuli to the psychophysiological and behavioral reactions, which cannot be obtained in real-world and self-report research designs. A set of guidelines for implementing IVE technology for research is suggested in order to standardize its use and allow new researchers to engage with this emerging field of research.

Original languageEnglish
Article number364
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Volume18
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 2 Jan 2021

Keywords

  • Electrodermal activity
  • Eye tracking
  • Gait analysis
  • Heart rate
  • Immersive virtual environment
  • Mobility
  • VR
  • Walkability
  • Walking simulator
  • Wellbeing

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