Presence is also the result of perceptual and psychological immersion. The first is accomplished by blocking as many of the senses as possible to the outside world and making it possible for the user to perceive only the artificial world, by the use of goggles, headphones, gloves, and so on. The second results from the user's mental absorption in the world. Theorists such as Schuemie et al.[44] have followed Lombard and Ditton in assuming that the ability to interact with the mediated environment is the most important factor in the sense of presence, and that this explains why immersive virtual reality environments have been shown to be effective in the treatment of fear of heights, fear of flying, arachnophobia, claustrophobia, and agoraphobia, and the fear of being in places from which escape might be difficult or embarrassing.

A well-known example of a VRE with a very high level of immersiveness is Osmose, by Char Davies. Davies believes that full body immersion in a virtual environment can lead to shifts in mental awareness. She also felt that the technology associated with the Cartesian types of virtual reality inherited from the Western-scientific-industrial complex is not neutral. Davies set out to deliberately circumvent these conventions. "Osmose...shuns conventional hand-based modes of user interaction which tend to reduce the body to that of disembodied eye and probing hand in favour of an embodying interface which tracks breath and shifting balance, grounding the immersive experience in that participant's own body."[45] The metaphor for Osmose is scuba diving: the environments are slightly blurred and without horizon lines, much like the ocean; users move from space to space by breathing or adjusting their balance. Some users have strong emotional reactions to Davies's environments, suggesting that the high degree of immersion, with an interface that involves the kinesthetic sense as well as hearing and sight, results in a high degree of presence.


44. M. J. Schuemie, C.A.P.G. van der Mast, M. Krijn, and P.M.G. Emmelkamp, "Exploratory Design and Evaluation of a User Interface for Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy," in Medicine Meets Virtual Reality, ed. J.D. Westwood, H.M. Hoffman, R.A. Robb, D. Stredney, 468–474. IOS Press, 2002. Available online at <>.

45. From the Immersence website at [<>] <>.

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Last verified: August 1st 2013.