A Marriage of Tradition and Innovation: VR Opens a New Visual World to Exploration

On June 22nd, the center invited Dr. Sun Joo (Grace) Ahn of the College of Journalism & Mass Communication at the University of Georgia, who is also founder and curator of the Games and Virtual Environments Lab there. Dr. Ahn attended a discussion at the center to share the results of her more than 10 years of research into how the experience of Virtual Reality has affected the attitudes and behaviors of people.

Dr. Ahn mentioned during the discussion that in contrast to traditional methods of inquiry where interviewees can often only imagine the results of their choices, VR enables users to simulate and experience firsthand the possible outcomes of these choices. Users can reexamine their own decision-making process in a multitude of ways. For instance, VR can simulate disease as it ravages the human body, enabling researchers to try out cures for illnesses without experimenting on the human body physically. VR can also simulate the destruction caused by hurricanes and other natural disasters, allowing for the development and testing of preventative measures before the arrival of an actual disaster. In the realm of politics, VR can be used as a tool to assess policies and simulate the outcome of elections.

Dr. Ahn also emphasized that VR research involving the behavioral testing of users is not merely concerned with creating a perfect virtual environment, but is instead focused on enabling participants to actually experience what is happening and who is involved. As for whether VR will be able to replace traditional methods of inquiry or simply serve as a supplementary tool, Dr. Ahn believes that practically speaking, completely replacing traditional methods with VR would be unrealistic, and that any use of VR for research must be founded on established theories. If VR is to be used as a tool for supplementary research, researchers will face greater challenges in sampling and other key issues.

​​​​​​​Group photo of Dr. Ahn and TIGCR members 

(Photo credit: TIGCR)