Throwing Versus Walking as Indicators Of Distance Perception In Similar Real And Virtual Environments

Cynthia S. Sahm, Sarah H. Creem-Regehr, William B. Thompson, Peter Willemsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

110 Scopus citations


For humans to effectively interact with their environment, it is important for the visual system to determine the absolute size and distance of objects. Previous experiments performed in full-cue, real-world environments have demonstrated that blind walking to targets serves as an accurate indication of distance perception, up to about 25 m. In contrast, the same task performed in virtual environments (VEs) using head-mounted displays shows significant underestimation in walking. To date, blind walking is the only visually directed action task that has been used to evaluate distance perception in VEs beyond reaching distances. The possible influence of the response measure itself on absolute distance perception in virtual environments is currently an open question. Blind walking involves locomotion and the egocentric updating of the environment with one's own movement. We compared this measure to blind throwing, a task that involves the initiation of a movement directed by vision, but no further interaction within the environment. Both throwing and walking were compressed in the VE but accurate in the real world. We suggest that distance compression found in VEs may be a result of a general perceptual origin rather than specific to the response measure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)35-45
Number of pages11
JournalACM Transactions on Applied Perception
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2005


  • Blind walking
  • Distance perception
  • Experimentation
  • Head-mounted displays
  • Measurement
  • Performance
  • Virtual environments


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