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VR gaming boosts navigational efficiency, spatial memory

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Adding to the growing list of studies, a new study has said that individuals playing a virtual reality (VR)-based game can develop higher navigational efficiency and less disorientation than those playing a non-VR immersive desktop version.

VR gaming boosts navigational efficiency, spatial memory
HTC VIVE Cosmos PC-based virtual reality (VR) system.

The study, published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, revealed that navigation in VR can be overwhelming for its users.

“Participants in the VR condition performed better on spatial-based knowledge questions,” said study co-author Egon van den Broek from Utrecht University in the Netherlands.

“An interesting use of VR, in addition to education and training, is its use to rehabilitate decreases occurring in navigational abilities and spatial memory in older individuals”.

Spatial memory is a cognitive process that enables a person to remember different locations as well as spatial relations between objects.

According to the team, instead of traditional free movement, node-based movement can be used in virtual reality (VR) games.

In node-based movement systems, players navigate by jumping to set locations and it is similar to hypertext navigation.

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In a randomised controlled trial with 25 adolescent participants, an immersive desktop game environment and a VR game environment were compared on the transmission of in-game educational content and navigational efficiency.

The findings showed that the “hypertext lostness” measure is also valuable outside its original hypertext domain – in VR.

The researchers revealed that VR did not improve players’ retention of factual knowledge but did significantly improve players’ spatial knowledge and navigational efficiency.

“We conclude that the ‘hypertext lostness’ measure is also valuable for node-based VR games and VR games add to spatial learning, even when compared with already immersive desktop games,” the authors wrote.

The scientists in general measure “lostness” during a task by identifying disorientation and has been shown to be successful in predicting success in information-seeking tasks in hypertext.

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