How Augmented Reality Influences People’s Behavior?

According to a new study led by Jeremy Bailenson, a professor of communication in the School of Humanities and Sciences, researchers got to know that after people getting familiarized with augmented reality (AR) — simulated by wearing goggles that differentiate computer-generated content against real-world environments — their dealings in their physical world changed too, even with the AR device removed. Additionally, researchers found that participants emerged to be influenced by the presence of a virtual person in the same way they would be if an actual human being were next to them. These findings are set to publish May 14 in PLOS ONE.

“We’ve discovered that using augmented reality technology can change where you walk, how you turn your head, how well you do on tasks, and how you connect socially with other physical people in the room,” said Bailenson, who co-authored the paper with graduate students Mark Roman Miller, Hanseul Jun and Fernanda Herrera, who are the lead authors.

Their findings reflect a significant part of the research Bailenson has done on virtual reality (VR). While VR tries to reproduce a real-life environment and bring the user out of the present setting, AR technology layers digital information on the user’s physical surroundings.

Currently, a lot of technology companies have persistent on developing augmented reality goggles and other products, moving away from their prior emphasis on virtual reality, Bailenson said.

He said the AR goggles of today can project a practical, 3D version of an actual person in real time onto the physical surroundings of the goggles-wearer. This lets for groups of people all over the world to make eye contact and converse nonverbally in other nuanced ways — something which video conferencing efforts to achieve.

“AR could help the climate change crisis by allowing realistic virtual meetings, which would avoid the need for gas to commute or flying to meetings in person,” Bailenson said. “And this research can help bring attention to the possible social consequences of AR use at a large scale, so the technology can be designed to avoid these issues before becoming ubiquitous.”

Exploring Augmented Reality Effects

To know the effects of AR on the behavior of people in social situations, researchers appointed 218 participants and performed three studies. In the first two experiments, each participant conversed with a virtual avatar named Chris who would sit on a real chair before them.

The first study simulated traditional psychology finding known as social inhibition. It is just like people complete easy chores with no difficulty and resist with more challenging ones when they have a person examining them in the real world, the same assumed true when an avatar was watching study participants in augmented reality, the researchers found.

Study participants finished easy anagrams faster but performed inadequately on the complex ones when avatar Chris was observable in their AR field of vision.

Another study investigated whether participants would pursue accepted social cues when interacting with avatar Chris. This was computed by tracking whether participants would sit on the chair that avatar Chris before sat on.

Researchers got to know that all participants who wore the AR headset sat on the vacant chair next to Chris in place of sitting right on the avatar. Of those participants who were approached to remove the headset before selecting their seat, 72 percent still opted to sit in the empty chair next to where Chris sat before.

Social Connections Affected

“The fact that not a single one of the subjects with headsets took the seat where the avatar sat was a bit of a surprise,” Bailenson said. “These results highlight how AR content integrates with your physical space, affecting the way you interact with it. The presence of AR content also appears to linger after the goggles are taken off.”

In the third study, researchers checked the influences of AR on the social connection between two people who are having a conversation while one of them wears an AR headset. Researchers found that those wearing AR goggles reported feeling less socially associated with their conversation partner.

Bailenson told that further studies, which he and his team are now working on, are required to further examine the effects of augmented reality.

“This paper scratches the surface of the social-psychological costs and benefits of AR use, but much research is needed to understand the effects of this technology as it scales,” the researchers wrote.