Eric Novotny (Grady postdoctoral research associate), Joomi Lee (Grady postdoctoral research associate) & Sun Joo (Grace) Ahn (in press). “Virtual reality as human machine communication.” In A. Guzman, R. McEwen, & S. Jones (Eds.). The SAGE Handbook of Human-Machine Communication. SAGE.
Abstract: The rapid pace of advancement in virtual and augmented technology is continuously expanding the boundaries of human communication, which were previously limited to other humans but now extend to virtual agents and VR devices themselves. Focusing on the dynamic interactions between users and immersive technologies, this chapter presents theoretical orientations and practical applications that situate the VR scholarship within the HMC subfield. We outlined psychologically relevant concepts that emerge during interactions in VR, focusing on self-perceptions, perceptions of other humans and agents, and experiences with virtual environments and VR devices. Specifically, we discussed self-presence, spatial presence, social presence, and embodiment, and remarked on the impact of these phenomena on human-machine communication outcomes. The psychological concepts should be empirically tested with new developments in VR technology, such as enhanced haptic feedback and conversational agent realism, for scholars to understand how these novel features impact human users. As the individual and social applications of VR proliferate, so must the scholarship on the communication exchanges between human users and the virtual devices, agents, and environments, to provide a corresponding understanding of their effects on users.