Specimen Box


2017, Regis Kopper, Ph.D. David J. Zielinski Derek Nankivil

Virtual Reality is becoming better and better at imitating the real world as graphics and other technologies improve. Yet, one of the barriers that continues to keep us from being fully immersed is the need for hand held wands, or other tracked devices, to aid interaction. The Specimen Box project explores new interaction techniques that may be more natural in world fixed displays, such as the CAVE-type system here at the Duke Immersive Virtual Environment.

The Specimen Box is a clear physical box with a tracking component which, when in the environment, appears to house virtual content. Users can hold the box and manipulate the content inside. The user feels the weight of a physical object in their hands, resulting in less cognitive dissonance between the user’s mental understanding of what interacting with an object should feel like and what it actually feels like in virtual reality. Researchers hypothesized that this new interaction technique would increase the speed at which individuals can manipulate objects when asked.

A recent user study asked subjects to read the colors written on each side of a virtual box projected inside of the Specimen Box. In the easiest trial, the font color matched the word that was written (ie. “green” was written in green). In the harder trials, the font color did not match the word that was written. The study found over repeated trials that participants’ response times were faster when manipulating a physical box than when manipulating a virtual box.