Recent advances in computer technology have significantly facilitated the use of virtual environments (VE) for small and medium enterprises (SME). However, achieving visual realism in such VE requires high investments in terms of time and effort, while its usefulness has not yet become apparent from research. Other qualities of VE, such as the use of large displays, proved its effectiveness in enhancing the individual user's spatial cognition. The current study assessed whether the same benefits apply for visual realism in VE. Thirty-two participants were divided into two groups, who explored either a photorealistic or a nonrealistic supermarket presented on a large screen. The participants were asked to navigate through the supermarket on a predetermined route. Subsequently, spatial learning was tested in four pen-and-paper tests that assessed how accurately they had memorized the route and the environment's spatial layout. The study revealed increased spatial learning from the photorealistic compared to the nonrealistic supermarket. Specifically, participants performed better on tests that involved egocentric spatial knowledge. The results suggest visual realism is useful because it increases the user's spatial knowledge in the VE. Therefore, the current study provides clear evidence that it is worthwhile for SME to invest in achieving visual realism in VE.
- Virtual Reality
- visual spatial ability