The VRSciT project (2020-1-PT01-KA204-078597) has been funded with support from the European Commission. This web site reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

What is the best way of delivering virtual nature for improving mood? An experimental comparison of high definition TV, 360◦ video, and computer generated virtual reality

Study Field
Design, Environmental Education, Mental Health Services
Summary
Exposure to ‘real’ nature can increase positive affect and decrease negative affect, but direct access is not always possible, e.g., for people in health/care settings who often experience chronic boredom. In these settings ‘virtual’ forms of nature may also have mood-related benefits (e.g., reducing boredom), but it has been difficult to separate effects of nature content from those of delivery mode. The present laboratory-based study explored whether exposure to three different delivery modes of virtual nature could reduce negative affect (including boredom) and/or increase positive affect. Adult volunteer participants (n = 96) took part in a boredom induction task (to simulate the emotional state of many people in health/care settings) before being randomly assigned to view/ interact with a virtual underwater coral reef in one of three experimental conditions: (a) 2D video viewed on a high-definition TV screen; (b) 3600 video VR (360-VR) viewed via a head mounted display (HMD); or © interactive computer-generated VR (CG-VR), also viewed via an HMD and interacted with using a hand-held controller. Visual and auditory content was closely matched across conditions with help from the BBC’s Blue Planet II series team. Supporting predictions, virtual exposure to a coral reef reduced boredom and negative affect and increased positive affect and nature connectivity. Although reductions in boredom and negative affect were similar across all three conditions, CG-VR was associated with significantly greater improvements in positive affect than TV, which were mediated by greater experienced presence and increases in nature connectedness. Results improve our understanding of the importance of virtual nature delivery mode and inform studies in real care settings.
Innovative VR tools and techniques
● 360-VR of local nature scenery has been shown to promote feelings of relaxation for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy in Florida.
● Participants in the CG-VR condition reported the greatest level of experienced presence, followed by 360-VR, followed by TV.
● Both 360-VR and CG-VR elicited a greater experienced presence than TV. CG-VR also elicited greater presence than 360-VR.
● Presence in VR arises through altered sensory perception.
VR in education
● Virtual nature in hospital inpatients identified that use of VR technology across different medical settings has generally been safe and resulted in high patient satisfaction.
● VR has most often been utilised for short-term distraction from pain, anxiety, or distress during surgical procedures.
● Exposures to virtual marine environments significantly increased people’s subjective feelings of connectedness with these natural settings.
● Participants in the CG-VR condition did show greater improvements in positive emotions compared with TV.
● Virtual marine exposures reduced boredom and improve mood.
● Computer-generated Virtual Reality is more beneficial than 360° video and standard TV.
● Virtual Reality induced presence and increased nature connectedness.
● Findings could have important implications for people in isolated-confined settings.
● Direct contact with a psychological connectedness to the natural world can support a variety of health and wellbeing outcomes.
● Natural and urban areas produced equivalent effects on stress indicators, while only the nature walks produced significant increases in a positive mood.
● The greater presence an individual experiences in a virtual natural environment, the greater the beneficial impacts on mood should be.
● Higher levels of nature connectedness positively correlate with happiness, positive affect, vitality, and life satisfaction.
● 360-VR only allows viewers to observe the virtual environment, whereas CG-VR allows users to actively influence the virtual environment through the use of handheld controllers (thus, increasing potential immersion).
● Long periods of silence support immersion.
● CG-VR was associated with significantly greater nature connectedness than TV.
● Exposure to nature, even through virtual means, tends to improve positive feelings to a greater extent than it reduces negative ones.
● 360-VR reduced sadness to a greater extent than even real nature.
● The ‘Active’ VR nature program was more effective for reducing pain and physiological stress during dental surgery, compared with passively viewing a children’s movie inside the VR headset.
● Inducing presence is even more likely where systems allow the participant to use their body in a natural and dynamic way - e.g., bending down, reaching out, looking around objects, influencing elements of the VR world - a phenomenon they term “plausibility illusion” and one which may help to explain why the highest presence levels were felt in our interactive CG-VR condition.
● Improvements in a positive mood were, as predicted, mediated via subjective feelings of experienced presence in virtual nature and increases in state nature connectedness.
● 360-VR appears to offer little ‘added value’ over traditional TV, whereas CG-VR appears to offer a qualitatively different experience.
● Some users mentioned that the HTC VIVE felt quite heavy, which may make it less suitable for frailer individuals
● Only 5 minutes of virtual exposure to a coral reef environment reduced state boredom.
Reference
N.L. Yeo, M.P. White, I. Alcock, R. Garside, S.G. Dean, A.J. Smalley, B. Gatersleben, What is the best way of delivering virtual nature for improving mood? An experimental comparison of high definition TV, 360° video, and computer generated virtual realit

The VRSciT Project

The VRSciT project (2020-1-PT01-KA204-078597) has been funded with support from the European Commission. This web site reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.