Kay M. Stanney
UniversityofCentralFloridaDepartment ofIndustrialEngineeringandManagement SystemsOrlando,FL32816
Ronald R. Mourant
Robert S. Kennedy
Human FactorsIssuesinVirtual Environments:
A Review of the Literature
Virtualenvironmentsareenvisionedasbeingsystemsthat willenhancethecommuni-cationbetweenhumansandcomputers.Ifvirtualsystemsareto beeffectiveandwellreceivedbytheir users,considerablehuman-factorsresearchneedsto beaccom-plished.Thispaper providesanoverview ofmanyofthesehuman-factorsissues,in-cludinghumanperformanceefficiencyinvirtualworlds(whichislikelyinﬂuencedbytaskcharacteristics,user characteristics,humansensoryandmotor physiology,multi-modalinteraction,andthepotentialneedfor new designmetaphors);healthandsafetyissues(ofwhichcybersicknessanddeleteriousphysiologicalaftereffectsmayposethemost concern);andthesocialimpact ofthetechnology.Thechallengeseachofthesefactorspresent to theeffectivedesignofvirtualenvironmentsandsystematicapproachesto theresolutionofeachoftheseissuesarediscussed.
Efforts to apply virtual reality (VR) technology to advance the fields of medicine, engineering, education, design, training, and entertainment are cur-rently underway. The medical profession has expressed its desire to use VR sys-tems as training tools (Stytz, Frieder, & Frieder, 1991); human-factors special-ists are using VR for user-system analysis and design (Scott, 1991); scientists areutilizing VR to visualize complex data (Defanti & Brown, 1991); stock marketanalysts want to use VR to predict market trends and achieve financial gains(Coull & Rotham, 1993); and the military currently uses VR to carry out vir-tual war scenarios and training exercises (Dix, Finlay, Abowd, & Beale, 1993).Interest in this technology is so widespread that the U.S. government asked theNational Research Council to identify and determine U.S. VR research priori-ties (Adam, 1993; Durlach & Mavor, 1995).The reality is, however, that a considerable amount of systematic researchmust be carried out in order for VR to fulfill its potential. Researchers need tofocus significant efforts on addressing a number of human factors issues if VRsystems are to be effective and well received by their users. Perhaps this needwas best articulated by Shneiderman (1992) who stated that ‘‘analyses of VRuser-interface issues may be too sober a process for those who are enjoyingtheir silicon trips, but it may aid in choosing the appropriate applications and
1998 bythe MassachusettsInstitute of Technology
Requests for reprints should be sent to Kay M. Stanney, University of Central Florida, Depart-ment of Industrial Engineering and Management Systems, Orlando, FL 32816-2450, USA.