Stanford Research Explores How AR Can Affect Human Behavior
Examining how AR experiences can change the way people interact with the real world.
In a new study conducted by Standford Universities School of Humanities and Sciences, researchers discovered that simulated augmented reality experiences have a direct effect on human behavior within the real world, even after the AR device was removed.
“We’ve discovered that using augmented reality technology can change where you walk, how you turn your head, how well you do on tasks, and how you connect socially with other physical people in the room,” states Bailenson, co-author of the paper alongside graduate students and lead authors Mark Roman Miller, Hanseul Jun, and Fernanda Herrera.
Using a test pool of 218 participants, the team—lead by Jeremy Bailenson, founding director of Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab—conducted three different experiments that exposed the recruits to a variety of social situations brought to life using a Microsoft HoloLens MR headset.
The first experiment involved creating a sense of social inhibition by having users complete a series of anagrams while an AR avatar names Chris watched over them. Similar to how many humans would react to a nosey onlooker, Chris’ presence had a noticeable negative effect on the participant’s performances.
The second experiment involved testing social cues by having subjects choose between sitting in a chair currently occupied by the digital avatar, or an empty adjacent seat. 100% of the participants wearing the AR headset chose to sit in the empty chair, while a whopping 72% of the subjects who were instructed to remove the headset prior to sitting down–therefore no longer seeing Chris—also chose the adjacent seat.
“The fact that not a single one of the subjects with headsets took the seat where the avatar sat was a bit of a surprise,” Bailenson adds. “These results highlight how AR content integrates with your physical space, affecting the way you interact with it. The presence of AR content also appears to linger after the goggles are taken off.”
The final experiment was designed to explore the effects AR hardware has on social connection. Subjects who were asked with wearing an AR headset while engaging in conversation with another human reported feeling disconnected during their interactions; although Bailenson maintains that additional research on the subject is required.
“This paper scratches the surface of the social-psychological costs and benefits of AR use, but much research is needed to understand the effects of this technology as it scales.”
Despite the daunting amount of work that lays ahead of them, however, Bailenson and the team remain positive in regards to the potential impact their research could have not only on social development, but climate and transportation as well.
“AR could help the climate change crisis by allowing realistic virtual meetings, which would avoid the need for gas to commute or flying to meetings in person. And this research can help bring attention to the possible social consequences of AR use at a large scale, so the technology can be designed to avoid these issues before becoming ubiquitous.”