Augmented Reality (AR) is about seamless integration of virtual computer-generated objects into the real-world view. Ideally, virtual objects should blend into the real world so that the user feels like the virtual objects are "here". The sense of something being "here" is also known as the concept of presence. Presence is especially important if an AR application is using virtual humans to interact with the user. This thesis examines if the visual realism is essential to achieve the highest possible presence in an AR application. Two hypotheses were posed to examine the effect of realism on the perception of presence and the convenience of users within AR applications. H1: "Increasing the level of realism increases the sense of presence and convenience of users.". H2: "The Uncanny Valley effect can be observed within the experiment.".
The approach of this thesis to examine these hypotheses was to conduct a user study in which the participants experienced a virtual human with a specific visual realism levels. Each visual realism level differs in geometry, texture and lights. The developed AR application included a rendering system which allows the levels of realism of the virtual human to be set. The results partially supported the first hypothesis (H1) and indicated that visual realism is an important factor to achieve a higher sense of presence within an AR application. The second hypothesis (H2) was not supported, most probably due to technical limitations which did not allow such a realistic virtual representation of a human so that the participant would believe it could be a real person.
The main novelty of this thesis is its focus on the presence of virtual humans within AR. Recent studies showed that the influence of visual realism on the sense of presence if different in the field of AR than in VR. Future presence demanding AR application can take the results of this thesis of basis to achieve a higher sense of presence. Especially, if virtual humans are used to interact with users.
D. Schüller-Reichl: "Mapping of Realism in Rendering onto Perception of Presence in Augmented Reality"; Supervisor: H. Kaufmann, P. Kán; Institute of Visual Computing and Human-Centered Technology, 2019; final examination: 03-04-2019.
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