Won, A.S., Bailenson, J.N., Lanier, J. (2015) Appearance and Task Success in Novel Avatars. PRESENCE, Teleoperators and Virtual Environments, (24) 4.
Novel avatar bodies are ones that are not controlled in a one-to-one relationship between the user’s body and the avatar body; for example, when the avatar’s arms are controlled by the user’s legs, or, when the avatar has a third arm. People have been shown to complete tasks more successfully when controlling novel avatar bodies than when controlling avatars that conform to the normal human configurations, when those novel avatars are better suited to the task (Won, Bailenson, Lee, & Lanier, 2015). However, the novel avatars in such studies tend to follow two conventions. First, the novel avatars still resemble biological forms, and second, the novel extensions of the avatar are connected to the avatar body. In the following study, participants operated bodies with three arms. We examined the interaction between biological appearance of the third arm and whether or not it was attached to the body. There was a significant effect of biological appearance on performance, such that participants inhabiting an avatar with a biological appearance did worse overall. There was also an interaction with biological appearance and an extension that appeared detached from the participant’s body such that participants in this condition performed most poorly overall. We propose a relationship between self-reported presence and task success, and discuss the implications of these findings for the design, implementation, and use of novel avatars.