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Original Research ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Robot. AI | doi: 10.3389/frobt.2019.00096

Mind the Gap: Gap Affordance Judgments of Children, Teens, and Adults in an Immersive Virtual Environment

 Sarah H. Creem-Regehr1*, Devin M. Gill1, Grant D. Pointon1, Bobby Bodenheimer2 and  Jeanine Stefanucci1
  • 1The University of Utah, United States
  • 2Vanderbilt University, United States

Immersive Virtual Environments (IVEs) are powerful tools that can be used to investigate whether adults' action capabilities or affordances are scaled to the physical dimensions of their body and how these affordances are influenced by environmental context. However, less is known about affordance judgments in middle-aged children and adolescents in IVEs. Differences in rate of growth, decision criteria, and perceived risk could influence affordance judgments for children. In Experiment 1, children, teens, and adults were asked to view gaps of different widths that were presented at either ground level or at a height of 15 meters within the IVE. Across all age groups, estimates of gap crossing were underestimated at the higher height compared to the ground, consistent with reports of fear and risk of falling. Children, compared to adults, underestimated their maximum crossable gap compared to their actual crossable gap. To test whether this difference was specific to IVEs or a more generalized age effect, children and adults were tested on gap estimates in the real world in Experiment 2. This real world study showed no difference between children and adults, suggesting a unique contribution of the IVE to children’s affordance judgments. We discuss the implications for using IVEs to study children’s affordances.

Keywords: virtual environment, Perception & Action, affordance, Children, Space Perception

Received: 23 Jul 2019; Accepted: 26 Sep 2019.

Copyright: © 2019 Creem-Regehr, Gill, Pointon, Bodenheimer and Stefanucci. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Sarah H. Creem-Regehr, The University of Utah, Salt Lake City, United States,