Could the Virtual Dinosaur See You? Understanding Children’s Perceptions of Presence and Reality Distinction in Virtual Reality Environments

Tony Liao, Nancy A Jennings, Laura Dell, Chris Collins


Despite the growing interest and use of virtual reality (VR) in American homes, there is a notable gap in empirical studies that examine VR and children. This study identifies two important research concepts in children's research that have been studied across many types of media 1) reality distinction and 2) presence, and applies them to studying VR experiences. Taking a qualitative approach, 6 to 8-year-old children (N=29) participated in a VR experience as an extension of the children’s television show called Dino Dana. During the child’s VR experience where they swam in a pool with dinosaurs, we recorded a computer capture of what the child sees within the VR experience; and a video recording of the child in the VR headset and their behaviors during the VR experience. In addition, children responded to questions before and after their VR experience. We observed several behaviors of how children attempted to test and assess the reality of VR (e.g. holding their breath). Through interviews, we also found that children had certain presence experiences within VR that challenged their understanding of reality, where the dinosaurs were treated as real and evoked social presence. This study builds on our understanding of how VR might impact on young children and their perception of VR experiences, which have important implications for VR researchers, designers, and consumers.


Virtual Reality; Children; Reality; Presence; Dinosaurs

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