Interaction between reference frames during subjective vertical estimates in a tilted immersive virtual environment

  • Bringoux Lionel
  • Bourdin Christophe
  • Lepecq Jean-Claude
  • Pergandi Jean-Marie
  • Sandor Patrick M. B.
  • Mestre Daniel


Numerous studies highlighted the influence of a tilted visual frame on the perception of the visual vertical ('rod-and-frame effect' or RFE). Here, we investigated whether this influence can be modified in a virtual immersive environment (CAVE-like) by the structure of the visual scene and by the adjustment mode allowing visual or visuo-kinaesthetic control (V and VK mode, respectively). The way this influence might dynamically evolve throughout the adjustment was also investigated in two groups of subjects with the head unrestrained or restrained upright. RFE observed in the immersive environment was qualitatively comparable to that obtained in a real display (portable rod-and-frame test; Oltman 1968, Perceptual and Motor Skills 26 503-506). Moreover, RFE in the immersive environment appeared significantly influenced by the structure of the visual scene and by the adjustment mode: the more geometrical and meaningful 3-D features the visual scene contained, the greater the RFE. The RFE was also greater when the subjective vertical was assessed under visual control only, as compared to visuo-kinaesthetic control. Furthermore, the results showed a significant RFE increase throughout the adjustment, indicating that the influence of the visual scene upon subjective vertical might dynamically evolve over time. The latter effect was more pronounced for structured visual scenes and under visuo-kinaesthetic control. On the other hand, no difference was observed between the two groups of subjects having the head restrained or unrestrained. These results are discussed in terms of dynamic combination between coexisting reference frames for spatial orientation.