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The Effect on Lower Spine Muscle Activation of Walking on a Narrow Beam in Virtual Reality

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2 Author(s)
Antley, A. ; Dept. of Comput. Sci., Univ. Coll. London, London, UK ; Slater, M.

To what extent do people behave in immersive virtual environments as they would in similar situations in a physical environment? There are many ways to address this question, ranging from questionnaires, behavioral studies, and the use of physiological measures. Here, we compare the onsets of muscle activity using surface electromyography (EMG) while participants were walking under three different conditions: on a normal floor surface, on a narrow ribbon along the floor, and on a narrow platform raised off the floor. The same situation was rendered in an immersive virtual environment (IVE) Cave-like system, and 12 participants did the three types of walking in a counter-balanced within-groups design. The mean number of EMG activity onsets per unit time followed the same pattern in the virtual environment as in the physical environment-significantly higher for walking on the platform compared to walking on the floor. Even though participants knew that they were in fact really walking at floor level in the virtual environment condition, the visual illusion of walking on a raised platform was sufficient to influence their behavior in a measurable way. This opens up the door for this technique to be used in gait and posture related scenarios including rehabilitation.

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Visualization and Computer Graphics, IEEE Transactions on  (Volume:17 ,  Issue: 2 )