The aim of this study was to provide information about the importance of auditory feedback in a VR system planned for clinical use and to address the different factors that should be taken into account in building a bimodal virtual environment. We conducted an experiment in which we assessed spatial performances in agoraphobic patients and normal subjects comparing two kinds of virtual environments, visual alone (Vis) and auditory-visual (AVis), during separate sessions. Subjects were equipped with a head-mounted display coupled with an electromagnetic sensor system and immersed in a virtual town in which they could move forward by pressing a mouse button. Subjects had to turn on their own vertical axis in order to change the direction of heading in the virtual town. Their task was to locate different landmarks and become familiar with the town. In the AVis condition subjects were equipped with the head-mounted display and headphones, which delivered a soundscape updated in real time according to their movement in the virtual town. The sounds were produced through tracked binaural rendering (HRTF). The two groups of subjects exhibited better scores of presence in the AVis condition, although patients exhibited more cyber sickness symptoms than normal subjects in this condition. While normal subjects preferred the AVis condition, expressing a better sense of realism, patients did not mention such a preference. Overall, this study might reflect the multisensory integration deficit of anxious patients and underline the need for further research on multimodal VR systems for clinical use.
Contribution au colloque ou congrès : Cybertherapy