Using Virtual Reality to Measure Working Memory Performance and Evaluate the Effect of the Degree of Immersion on Working Memory Performance
Type of DegreePhD Dissertation
Computer Science and Software Engineering
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Virtual Reality is becoming prevalent in our society today in various industries like entertainment, education, health, manufacturing, and communications. It allows one to visualize almost any object or go anywhere and immerse oneself in a virtual world. Virtual Reality is currently being extensively studied and utilized in diverse areas, such as non-traditional and informal educational environments, psychology, and working memory. Since Baddeley and Hitch  popularized the concept of working memory, there is no convention about its precise description. However, there is agreement that working memory offers temporary access to a specific collection of mental representations for manipulation . It is commonly acknowledged that this system has a restricted capacity, as only a limited amount of information can be accessed and maintained at any given time. This limited capacity can account for the decline in performance as task complexity grows. Although increasing attention has been given to working memory, many applications were implemented for measuring it. However, these applications have relatively low validity. Currently, measuring working memory performance (WMP) is based on converting a task in non-digital settings into a digital environment and then calculating the participant’s score. That could be a part of the measuring process, but these frameworks neglect other circumstances that can affect users’ WMP. This negligence can put validity on the line. In the measuring application environment, the degree of involvement, the feeling of being in the environment, satisfaction, and usability can play a role in WMP. One can perform better or worse based on the environment of the test. To build a valid measuring system, all these conditions have to be taken into account and their impact on participant WMP has to be thoroughly understood. This work measures the WMP in three different environments that provide different immersion levels and studies how a different level of immersion affects the participant’s working memory performance. These three levels of immersion are provided through desktop VR (DVR), immersive VR (IVR), and immersive embodied VR (IEVR). This research studies the impact of the level of immersion on user experience (presence, usability, and satisfaction) and how it can influence users’ WMP. This work seeks to Implement a more sophisticated, valid, and accurate framework for working memory performance using virtual reality technology based on understanding the immersion effects. In addition, this work will formulate a guideline for virtual reality researchers who work in working memory, education, and psychology.