Searching for the heart in presence

A study on heart rate and presence in a driving simulator

Completed: Spring 2013  Duration: 8 weeks  Collaboration: SLU



Virtual environments are often used to practice potentially hazardous situations which make it difficult to compare the virtual environment with the non-virtual counterpart. It is therefore important to develop effective evaluation methods that are adequate even when they are exclusively used in virtual environments. This study examined whether there was a connection between reported difficulty, change in heart rate and reported presence.

Twenty-four participants drove a virtual tractor and performed driving tasks and a mental workload task. The results showed that heart rate increased significantly during the mental workload task, and that average change in HR correlated significantly with reported presence for the half of the participants who reported the highest levels of presence.

The findings suggest that mental workload can be used to increase heart rate and that the increase is linked to presence. The relationship between presence and heart rate that was found indicate that it might be possible to detect presence with physiological measurements, which could be useful in evaluations of virtual environments.