Virtual Character Design and its potential to foster Empathy, Immersion, and 21st Century Learning Skills in Video Games and Virtual Reality Simulations

Alexandra Sierra Rativa

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Abstract

In this dissertation, we primarily researched whether virtual animals’ visual appearances can affect users’ perceptions and foster 21st Century Learning Skills (i.e., creativity, communication, critical thinking, and collaborative skills) within immersive technology. The results of this thesis showed that the visual design of the virtual character can significantly affect users’ cognition, empathy, and immersion perception. However, we found that visual appearance does not impact users’ perception of virtual embodiment and situational empathy in certain circumstances. A key element is the effect that the level of naturalness and artificiality of the visual design of the virtual character has upon students, especially when it has a non-human form, as is the case with virtual animals. The contribution of this dissertation can be applied to reduce rejection or apathy reactions (e.g., uncanny valley effect) and a high level of immersion in non-human virtual characters. This research can help people feel or perceive the animal’s life from the first perspective in a virtual reality simulation. In robotics, new design possibilities for zoomorphic robots can be explored in online education. A natural progression of this work would be to analyze whether and to what extent utilizing artificial intelligence to develop authentic and believable conversational virtual characters can foster 21st Century Learning Skills in virtual learning environments.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Tilburg University
Supervisors/Advisors
  • Louwerse, Max, Promotor
  • Šafář, Marie, Promotor
  • van Zaanen, M.M., Co-promotor, External person
  • van Noort, G., Member PhD commission, External person
  • Spronck, Pieter, Member PhD commission
  • Navarro Newball, A.A., Promotor, External person
  • Pimentel, D., Member PhD commission, External person
Award date9 Sept 2022
Print ISBNs9789464690088
Publication statusPublished - 9 Sept 2022

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