A Networked Desktop Virtual Reality Setup for Decision Science and Navigation Experiments with Multiple Participants

Hantao Zhao, Tyler Thrash, Stefan Wehrli, Christoph Hölscher, Mubbasir Kapadia, Jascha Grübel, Raphael P Weibel, Victor R Schinazi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
25 Downloads (Pure)


Investigating the interactions among multiple participants is a challenge for researchers from various disciplines, including the decision sciences and spatial cognition. With a local area network and dedicated software platform, experimenters can efficiently monitor the behavior of the participants that are simultaneously immersed in a desktop virtual environment and digitalize the collected data. These capabilities allow for experimental designs in spatial cognition and navigation research that would be difficult (if not impossible) to conduct in the real world. Possible experimental variations include stress during an evacuation, cooperative and competitive search tasks, and other contextual factors that may influence emergent crowd behavior. However, such a laboratory requires maintenance and strict protocols for data collection in a controlled setting. While the external validity of laboratory studies with human participants is sometimes questioned, a number of recent papers suggest that the correspondence between real and virtual environments may be sufficient for studying social behavior in terms of trajectories, hesitations, and spatial decisions. In this article, we describe a method for conducting experiments on decision-making and navigation with up to 36 participants in a networked desktop virtual reality setup (i.e., the Decision Science Laboratory or DeSciL). This experiment protocol can be adapted and applied by other researchers in order to set up a networked desktop virtual reality laboratory.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere58155
JournalJournal of Visualized Experiments
Issue number138
Publication statusPublished - 26 Aug 2018
Externally publishedYes


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