The influence of restricted viewing conditions on egocentric distance perception: implications for real and virtual indoor environments

Perception. 2005;34(2):191-204. doi: 10.1068/p5144.


We carried out three experiments to examine the influence of field of view and binocular viewing restrictions on absolute distance perception in real-world indoor environments. Few of the classical visual cues provide direct information for accurate absolute distance judgments to points in the environment beyond about 2 m from the viewer. Nevertheless, in previous work it has been found that visually directed walking tasks reveal accurate distance estimations in full-cue real-world environments to distances up to 20 m. In contrast, the same tasks in virtual environments produced with head-mounted displays (HMDs) show large compression of distance. Field of view and binocular viewing are common limitations in research with HMDs, and have been rarely studied under full pictorial-cue conditions in the context of distance perception in the real-world. Experiment 1 showed that the view of one's body and feet on the floor was not necessary for accurate distance perception. In experiment 2 we manipulated the horizontal and the vertical field of view along with head rotation and found that a restricted field of view did not affect the accuracy of distance estimations when head movement was allowed. Experiment 3 showed that performance with monocular viewing was equal to that with binocular viewing. These results have implications for the information needed to scale egocentric distance in the real-world and reduce the support for the hypothesis that a limited field of view or imperfections in binocular image presentation are the cause of the underestimation seen with HMDs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cues
  • Distance Perception / physiology*
  • Environment
  • Female
  • Head Movements / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Perceptual Masking / physiology*
  • Sensory Deprivation / physiology
  • Vision, Binocular / physiology
  • Vision, Monocular / physiology
  • Walking / physiology