Virtual environments (VEs) have been used successfully to train wayfinders to navigate through buildings and learn their layout. However, at the same time, for many, the VE deficiencies have reduced the effectiveness of VEs for training spatial tasks. In an effort to improve VE effectiveness, we conducted research to determine if certain unique capabilities of VEs could compensate for its deficiencies. Research participants were required to learn the layout or configuration of one floor of an office building as portrayed in a VE. To improve spatial learning, we developed three VE navigation training aids: local and global orientation cues, aerial views, and a themed environment enhanced with sights and sounds and divided into four distinct sectors. The navigation aids were provided during the training but were not available during testing of survey knowledge. Of the three training aids investigated, only the aerial views were effective in improving performance on the survey knowledge tests. The effectiveness of the navigation aids seemed to depend on how they were used during training. A retention test given one week after training indicated that spatial knowledge acquired in a VE diminished little over the one-week retention interval.

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