Fake VR

Four Types of Fake VR and one Real Type – and how to tell the difference

Why most VR that you see cited as VR in papers isn’t real VR at all – and how that affects experiments.

Five types of experience are typically described as Virtual Reality in studies, But not all VR is the same. Not everything that is described as VR actually tests what you hope it does or creates the effect on place cells that might have been intended. Let’s look at some of these different levels of VR:

  1. Three dimensional worlds represented on a flat screen which is viewed like a television or computer game. These are described as virtual reality solely because of the ability of the viewer to navigate the environment portrayed. Definitely NOT VR
  2. A three dimensional world viewed through a stereoscopic viewer, where the viewpoint has been predetermined by the creator of the material. These are strictly speaking stereoscopic images not virtual reality.
  3. A three dimensional world, where the direction of view varies depending on the viewer’s head position, but the viewer cannot translate or move that point of view in Cartesian space. e.g. cannot simulate walking, swimming or driving. These are 360 degree experiences – not VR
  4. A three dimensional world, where the direction of view varies depending on the viewer’s head position, and the viewer can translate or move that point of view in Cartesian space. e.g. can simulate walking, swimming or driving, but without using their body. Sort of VR – but for the purposes of immersive experience or neuroscience weak.
  5. A three dimensional world, where the direction of view varies depending on the viewer’s head position, and the viewer can translate or move that point of view in Cartesian space. e.g. can simulate walking, swimming or driving, including by using their body, for example, walking on a 2D treadmill. The virtual environment can be presented on wrap around 360 degree screens or using a virtual reality headset.

If we look at the literature these five techniques give very different outcomes when applied.

So what are the effective weaknesses of non-VR ‘VR’?

  • On a flat screen without dual displays they ignore stereopsis.
  • With a fixed stereoscopic viewer, they ignore vestibular input.
  • If the input is a keyboard type rather than a 2D treadmill they ignore locomotor output.
  • And ignoring both head position and body movements they ignore proprioception.
  • This results in a so-called virtual model that is likely to be a very poor representation of reality in the brain.

If you want to know more contact us and we will tell you what the challenges are specifically (and they are bigger than you might think) and exactly how we’ve overcome these issues.

Key VR References in Neuroscience

  1. Hori, Etsuro, et al. “Place-related neural responses in the monkey hippocampal formation in a virtual space.” Hippocampus 15.8 (2005): 991-996.
  2. Stackman, Robert W., Ann S. Clark, and Jeffrey S. Taube. “Hippocampal spatial representations require vestibular input.” Hippocampus 12.3 (2002): 291-303
  3. Day, J., G. Damsma, and Hans C. Fibiger. “Cholinergic activity in the rat hippocampus, cortex and striatum correlates with locomotor activity: an in vivo microdialysis study.” Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior 38.4 (1991): 723-729
  4. Slawinska, Urszula, and Stefan Kasicki. “The frequency of rat’s hippocampal theta rhythm is related to the speed of locomotion.” Brain research 796.1 (1998): 327-331
  5. Rochefort, Christelle, et al. “Cerebellum shapes hippocampal spatial code.” Science 334.6054 (2011): 385-389