Two studies were performed to investigate the sense of presence within stereoscopic virtual environments as a function of the addition or absence of auditory cues. The first study examined the presence or absence of spatialized sound, while the second study compared the use of nonspatialized sound to spatialized sound. Sixteen subjects were allowed to navigate freely throughout several virtual environments and for each virtual environment, their level of presence, the virtual world realism, and interactivity between the participant and virtual environment were evaluated using survey questions. The results indicated that the addition of spatialized sound significantly increased the sense of presence but not the realism of the virtual environment. Despite this outcome, the addition of a spatialized sound source significantly increased the realism with which the subjects interacted with the sound source, and significantly increased the sense that sounds emanated from specific locations within the virtual environment. The results suggest that, in the context of a navigation task, while presence in virtual environments can be improved by the addition of auditory cues, the perceived realism of a virtual environment may be influenced more by changes in the visual rather than auditory display media. Implications of these results for presence within auditory virtual environments are discussed.

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