Virtual reality has the potential to simulate a variety of real-world scenarios for training- and entertainment-purposes, as it has the ability to induce a sense of “presence”: the illusion that the user is physically transported to another location and is really “there”. VR and VR-technologies have seen a recent market resurgence due to the arrival of affordable, mass-market VR-display systems, such as the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, PlayStation VR, Samsung GearVR, and Google Cardboard. However, the use of tactile feedback to convey information about the virtual environment is often lacking in VR applications.
This study addresses this lack by proposing the use of binaural audio in VR to induce illusory tactile feedback. This is done by examining the literature on intersensory illusions as well as the relationship between audio and tactile feedback to inform the design of a software prototype that is able to induce the desired feedback. This prototype is used to test the viability of such an approach to induce illusory tactile feedback and to investigate the nature of this feedback.
The software prototype is used to collect data from users regarding their experiences of this type of feedback and its underlying causes. Data collection is done through observation, questionnaires, interviews, and focus groups and the results indicate that the use of binaural audio in VR can be used to effectively induce an illusory sense of tactile feedback in the absence of real-world feedback.
This study contributes insights regarding the nature of illusory sensations in VR, focusing on touch-sensations. This study also provides consolidated definitions of immersion and presence as well as a consolidated list of aspects of immersion, both of which are used to detail the relationship between immersion, presence, and illusory tactile feedback. Findings provide insight into the relationship between the design of audio in VR and its ability to alter perception in the tactile modality. Findings also provide insight into aspects of VR, such as presence and believability, and their relationship to perception across various sensory modalities.