Transformed social interaction

Figure 10.18: (a) A top-down depiction of an ordinary classroom is shown, in which a teacher can look directly at one student. (b) In a VR classroom, the teacher could be looking at each student simultaneously, at least from the perspective of each student.
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(a) & (b)

Two common themes in this book have been that VR can produce experiences that are better than reality, and that our perceptual systems adapt to new stimuli. It is therefore natural to wonder how social interaction can be altered or improved through VR. The notion of transformed social interaction has been introduced Jeremy Bailenson [16]. A thought-provoking example is shown in Figure 10.18. In a virtual world, a teacher could look at every student simultaneously, directly in the eyes, while lecturing to the class. This is physically impossible in the real world, but it is easy to make in VR because each student could see a different version of the virtual world. Of course, the students might reason that the teacher could not possibly be paying attention to all of them, but the chance that she might be watching could have a significant effect on learning outcomes. The classroom could also appear to have a small number of students, while in reality thousands of students are in attendance. How many more mechanisms for social interaction can be introduced that are impossible to achieve in the real world? How quickly will our brains adapt to them? In what settings would be prefer such interaction to meeting in the real world? The future should bring about many exciting new mechanisms for social interaction.

Steven M LaValle 2020-01-06