The term substitutional reality (SR) is used to describe systems or experiences that integrate real world objects into a fully virtual environment with varying levels of accuracy. Real world objects are matched with digital proxies that allow a developer to transport the player to a completely virtual world, such as a futuristic space ship, but still provide passive haptics through the real-world objects. Our LevelEd SR prototype system is a culmination of previous work on both LevelEd AR (a way to map a real world space) and LevelEd VR (a virtual reality level editor). The system allows users/players to create subsitutional reality game levels and experiences using common consumer hardware.
There are two key benefits to SR experiences. First, is the inclussion of passive haptics (ability to touch or lean on an object) which has been shown to increase presence and immersion. The second is that room-scale experiences no longer need to be limited to completely empty spaces. As the system maps objects within the space, the user can mark and incorporate real-world objects, like a bed, that would normally rule out room-scale experiences.
We devised a study (completed July 2021) that would not only evaluate LevelEd SR and the SR level design workflow, but that would also compare an SR and VR experience to see if there were benefits for playing entertainment games in SR over just VR. Participants first played a sample game in both VR and SR. The only difference between the two was that the SR version included real world objects for passive haptics. Participants then captured a space using our LevelEd AR application using both Outline and Meshing techniques. They then created their own SR game level using our VR level editor (LevelEd VR) before play testing their level. The results show that the SR version of the game had higher levels of presence and was preferred by players. The LevelEd SR system and workflow was found to be usuable by participants and was rated positively with participants noting they would want to use it again to experience SR game levels.
The results were presented at IEEE VR 2022 in New Zealand in March 2022. A video of the presentation and paper can be found below:
Beever, L., & John, N. W. (2022, March). LevelEd SR: A Substitutional Reality Level Design Workflow. In 2022 IEEE Conference on Virtual Reality and 3D User Interfaces (VR) (pp. 130-138). IEEE.