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Virtual Reality: Immersion vs Presence

Updated: Feb 8

Research on the concept of presence in virtual reality has been ongoing, and it will continue to be a subject of exploration as there are significant advantages to user experiences.

Let's have a conversation about what immersion vs presence really means, and how they potentially impact the experience for users.

First, the term virtual reality encompasses three types of systems: A virtual environment presented on a flat screen, a room-based system, or a head-mounted display. The goal is the illusion of a realistic world with the ability of some sort of interaction.

What's Immersion: It's quite simply the technical capability of the VR system that presents the level of detail of the virtual environment. The higher the multimodal system (audio, visual, haptic, olfactory, motion, etc.) or the more sensory channels in a system, the higher the fidelity or quality of realism.

What's Presence: Well, it's the description of the user's psychological response to the virtual environment. Interestingly, research shows that even with the same level of immersion, different users can experience varying levels of presence, influenced by factors such as personality and emotional state.

Ideally, we still want a system with higher levels of immersion to increase the user experience in hopes of achieving higher levels of presence. The Internation Journal of Human-Computer Studies published an article concluding that presence might not be determined by visual "fidelity but by psychological fidelity: the extent to which stimulus presentation evokes the type of physiological or emotional response one would experience in real life."

It is agreed that immersion aids in achieving this goal. However, it seems users remember virtual environments that elicit more intense emotional responses by replicating the anxiety associated with real-life stressful situations.

I believe the modeling and simulations industry is moving along the important presence path providing LE/MIL cutting-edge training solutions that elicit emotional connections and enhance training experiences.

A few of my top choices for presence and immersion:

LE/MIL Solutions:

Emergency Management Solution:

Immersive Physical Stimulations Solutions:


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