Three experiments investigated the effect of implementing low-level aspects of motor control for a collaborative carrying task within a VE interface, leaving participants free to devote their cognitive resources to the higher-level components of the task. In the task, participants collaborated with an autonomous virtual human in an immersive virtual environment (VE) to carry an object along a predefined path. In experiment 1, participants took up to three times longer to perform the task with a conventional VE interface, in which they had to explicitly coordinate their hand and body movements, than with an interface that controlled the low-level tasks of grasping and holding onto the virtual object. Experiments 2 and 3 extended the study to include the task of carrying an object along a path that contained obstacles to movement. By allowing participants' virtual arms to stretch slightly, the interface software was able to take over some aspects of obstacle avoidance (another low-level task), and this led to further significant reductions in the time that participants took to perform the carrying task. Improvements in performance also occurred when participants used a tethered viewpoint to control their movements because they could see their immediate surroundings in the VEs. This latter finding demonstrates the superiority of a tethered view perspective to a conventional, human'seye perspective for this type of task.

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