Visual exploration of omnidirectional panoramic scenes

J Vis. 2020 Jul 1;20(7):23. doi: 10.1167/jov.20.7.23.


How do we explore the visual environment around us, and how are head and eye movements coordinated during our exploration? To investigate this question, we had observers look at omnidirectional panoramic scenes, composed of both landscape and fractal images, using a virtual reality viewer while their eye and head movements were tracked. We analyzed the spatial distribution of eye fixations and the distribution of saccade directions and the spatial distribution of head positions and the distribution of head shifts, as well as the relation between eye and head movements. The results show that, for landscape scenes, eye and head behavior best fit the allocentric frame defined by the scene horizon, especially when head tilt (i.e., head rotation around the view axis) is considered. For fractal scenes, which have an isotropic texture, eye and head movements were executed primarily along the cardinal directions in world coordinates. The results also show that eye and head movements are closely linked in space and time in a complementary way, with stimulus-driven eye movements predominantly leading the head movements. Our study is the first to systematically examine eye and head movements in a panoramic virtual reality environment, and the results demonstrate that a virtual reality environment constitutes a powerful and informative research alternative to traditional methods for investigating looking behavior.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Eye Movements / physiology*
  • Female
  • Fixation, Ocular / physiology
  • Head Movements / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Orientation, Spatial
  • Spatial Navigation / physiology
  • Spatial Processing / physiology*
  • Visual Fields / physiology
  • Young Adult