Virtual reality has a number of advantages for analyzing sports interactions such as the standardization of experimental conditions, stereoscopic vision, and complete control of animated humanoid movement. Nevertheless, in order to be useful for sports applications, accurate perception of simulated movement in the virtual sports environment is essential. This perception depends on parameters of the synthetic character such as the number of degrees of freedom of its skeleton or the levels of detail (LOD) of its graphical representation. This study focuses on the influence of this latter parameter on the perception of the movement. In order to evaluate it, this study analyzes the judgments of immersed handball goalkeepers that play against a graphically modified virtual thrower. Five graphical representations of the throwing action were defined: a textured reference level (L0), a nontextured level (L1), a wire-frame level (L2), a moving point light display (MLD) level with a normal-sized ball (L3), and a MLD level where the ball is represented by a point of light (L4). The results show that judgments made by goalkeepers in the L4 condition are significantly less accurate than in all the other conditions (p < .001). This finding means that the goalkeepers' perception of the movement is influenced more by the size of the ball during the judgment task than the graphical LOD of the throwing action. The MLD representation of the movement thus appears to be sufficient for a sports duel analysis in virtual environments.

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