Effect of latency on presence in stressful virtual environments

IEEE Virtual Reality, 2003. Proceedings. (2003), pp. 141-148, doi: 10.1109/VR.2003.1191132

Previous research has shown that even low end-to-end latency can have adverse effects on performance in virtual environments (VE). This paper reports on an experiment investigating the effect of latency on other metrics of VE effectiveness: physiological response, simulator sickness, and self-reported sense of presence.

Variables and Constants

    Visual Fidelity
  • latency - the only variable was end-to-end latency of the head/hand tracker. the low latency condition had an average latency of 51.7ms. this was when they ran the system as fast as possible. the high latency condition had an average latency of 91.8 ms. for this co

All of the other immersion components (stereo HMD, passive haptics, spatial audio) were the same

System Info

  • head-mounted display - virtual research v8 head mounted display 640x480 in each eye 60 degree diagonal fov 60 hz refresh rate
Input Hardware

The PC was a dual-processor Pentium 4 1.8 GHz PC with a dual-video output nVidia Geforce4 Ti 4600 graphics card

Participant Info

All 164 had usable questionnaire data. 61 had usable heart-rate data. 67 had usable skin-conductance data. Some participants might have had alcohol or medications in the past 24 hours, or might have been sleep deprived or stressed, since they were at SIGGRAPH. SIGGRAPH attendees, so probably high technical expertise, although this is not explicitly stated.

Total # Age Range Gender Balance
164 25 - 45

User explore the "training room" to get used to the VE, then pick up two virtual bean bags and drop them onto targets in the "pit room," a twenty foot drop from a small ledge.

Interaction and Environment


The training room looks like a normal room in a home with a table and a lamp, etc. Passive haptics were used for the furniture. A real fan simulated wind blowing by curtains in the VE. The pit room was completely virtual except for a real plank that the user walked on. The quality of the rendering was high (they used the Wild Magic game engine). They also had 3D spatialized sound.

Dimensionality Scale Density Visual Realism
3D Medium Medium High

  1. There was a significant direct effect of latency on cybersickness for a interactive experience of the ve task.

    Higher latency resulted in more nausea when entering the "pit room"

    Specificity: Somewhat general

  2. There was a significant inverse effect of latency on heart rate for a interactive experience of the ve task.

    Higher latency resulted in more nausea when entering the "pit room"

    Specificity: Somewhat specific
    The quality of the entire VE experience (haptics, visuals, sound) might have been very important in the results. Another VE which was not as well done as this one might not have an effect on the user, no matter the latency.