Hosted by Dr. Stephen Gilbert and the Virtual Reality Applications Center at Iowa State University, XR Advance welcomes extended reality experts to present innovative research in a series of videos.

During the June 2017 VR Workshop & Summit sponsored by the NSF, community leaders identified 8 research areas of focus. XR Advance explores recent research and collaboration within the XR community while highlighting these core research areas.

Research Areas

3 rectangle bars rest on a graph with vertical and horizontal axis. There are three tick marks on the vertical side of the graph. The first two bars are tall enough to pass the second tick threshold and have checkmarks below them to signify passing the benchmark. The last bar is much shorter than the first two and is below the second tick mark. It is colored differently than the first two and has an “X” drawn below it to signify failing the benchmark.

User-Centric hierarchical benchmarks

"Establishing standards for XR products will ease comparison and shape new goals.”

Determining quantifiable methods for assessing the entire user experience is essential to improving the effectiveness of extended reality. To span platforms with optimal scope, these standards should be agnostic to hardware and software systems.

3 Vitruvian people are shown wearing head-mounted VR goggles. They’re encapsulated by circles, although each of the humans are unique sizes and shapes. The circles slightly overlap and are place on the left, center, and right of the screen.

optimizing the human-machine interface

"XR should deliver a personalized, natural experience to every user regardless of shape or size.”

User interfaces and interaction techniques work in tandem to permit inputs, interpret actions, and relay results to the user. If these systems can adapt to all users, no matter the ergonomics, they will offer personalized, natural interaction with virtual surroundings.

A human figure stands in the middle of the image in a relaxed position with arms slightly raised. Three bubbles point to different spots on the human. The first bubble points to the human’s feet. Inside the bubble, there is a shoe which looks like it is running forward quickly. The second bubble points to the human’s chest. Inside the bubble there is a heart symbol with lines exiting it similar to a heart rate monitor. The third bubble points to the human’s head. Inside the bubble there is a brain.

Identifying Internal States & Traits

"If the system knows how you feel, it can adapt accordingly.”

Understanding the emotional and physiological states of users in real-time is critical to developing and assessing adaptive systems as well as improving general XR usability. Deciphering the internal states of users will produce beneficial methods of amplifying the user experience.

A human figure stands on the left side with head-mounted VR goggles. A nearly identical holographic reflection stands at the right side. The two figures are shaking hands.

DETECTING Physical States

"Are you pointing at a particular product? Greeting a colleague? The system should know.”

To establish self-efficacy and develop a state of flow in an extended reality environment, systems should inspect a user’s posture, gait, expressions, and other physical attributes to spawn a facsimile avatar which dynamically embodies the user.

A human is shown on the left wearing head-mounted VR goggles. An arrow points in a semi-circle from the human to a desktop computer tower. In the middle of the arrow, three circle icons are encapsulated by brackets. The first icon shows a heart rate monitor, the second shows theater masks, and the third shows a measurement. On the bottom of the image, another arrow points from the computer to the human in a semi-circle. Like the top arrow, three circle icons are encapsulated by brackets in the middle of the arrow. The first icon shows a tree and bird flying (symbolizing the environment), the second icon shows musical notes, and the third icon displays a warning or yield symbol.

Dynamic Content Generation

"The digital environment adapts to your choices in real time.”

Conventional content design often delivers a one-size-fits-all solution or limits a user's choices. With live sensors and adaptive software that composes content on the fly based on users' moods and actions, designers could create dynamic XR content that automatically personalizes the experience.

The top half of human figure is shown wearing VR head-mounted goggles. The human’s hands are on its head and the mouth is frowning. Stars and swirls surround the head giving the impression of dizziness, disorientation, and nausea.


“XR should automatically acclimate if you start to feel sick.”

Cybersickness refers to a cluster of symptoms associated with participating in a computer-generated environment and ranges from a brief bout of nausea to days of feeling dizzy and disoriented. Users may experience cybersickness differently based on their individual sensitivity, adaptivity, and decay rate. An XR environment must address cybersickness using a personalized adaptive approach, including the causes, how to best measure the indicators, how the symptoms may be alleviated, and what factors determine an individual's susceptibility.

An open map is shown with the ends curled up and down, respectively. A large circular dot is at one end of the map. Smaller dots trail and wind away from the large dot and reach an “X”, like a treasure map. A large pin icon with a question mark inside points to the middle of the map, similar to a navigation service like Google Maps.

Spatial Cognition

“It’s even tougher to ask for directions in XR.”

Navigation systems should understand the spatial capabilities of a user and adapt the amount of assistance granted based on the situation. Travel through virtual environments should promote precise movement and assist the user in forming a spatial mapping while eluding cybersickness and physical boundaries.

The upper-body (above the shoulders) of 4 humans are shown with each wearing head-mounted VR goggles. Each character has a different hair style, shirt, and expression. Three characters are grouped together on the left, while the remaining character is alone on the right. They all look content.

Social and Behavioral Factors

“XR developers should accommodate social norms and understand the psychological impact of their designs.”

The impacts of XR interaction on the social behavior and naturalistic involvement of users are largely unknown. Current virtual environments rely on developers and users to structure and mediate social interactions without defined healthy behavior. Adaptive systems should support social functions and generate experiences which are inclusive and safe.

This site was developed at Iowa State University’s Virtual Reality Applications Center. Image credits: Emily Oldham

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