nmc virtual worlds

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All Case Studies

Virtual Worlds Case Study:

University of Washington Psychological Research Suites

Behavioral experiments in the virtual world save time and money
This project for a team in the Faculty of Psychology at the University of Washington aimed to recreate a number of real life work environments in which test subjects were monitored for their response to different elements of their surroundings.


  • ‘Holodeck’ style rezzing of different virtual environments at the touch of a button.
  • Data collection about avatar/human behavior within the environment.
  • Multiple instances can be deployed for minimal cost as the experiment develops.

Purpose: Such experiments in real life are both costly and require large amounts of space and equipment. The team at UoW aimed first to scientifically test whether or not a virtual environment could yield useful results as a substitute for real life. This was so successful they expanded the project and are now using it to generate experimental data from three suites, with plans to publish their findings later in the year.

In use: Each suite consists of two linked rooms, scripted to provide the functionality required by the team. Using a simple control panel in an observation room, the experimenters can instantly configure either room with a number of preset scenarios & content. Test subjects are first subjected to a timed, automated control scenario to determine their ability to function in the virtual environment, before being allowed into the rooms. Sensors then gather data about their location and orientation which is formatted and transmitted out of the virtual world for analysis.