Dr Richard Skarbez, La Trobe University
Presence and beyond: User experience in VR and across the reality-virtuality continuum


Since at least the early 1990s, practitioners and researchers in the area of virtual reality have considered “presence” - most often referred to as the feeling of “being there” in a virtual environment - to be of central importance to the field. Despite - or perhaps because - of this esteem, there remains widespread disagreement regarding what features of a VR experience contribute to the feeling of presence, how best to measure it, and even how to define it. This talk will touch on each of these issues, presenting results and best practices from the literature and his own research, as well as thoughts on a new model for discussing and measuring user experience not just in virtual reality, but across the reality-virtuality continuum.


Richard (Rick) Skarbez is a lecturer in the Department of Computer Science and Information Technology at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia. His research interests lie primarily in the area of human interaction with immersive technologies, such as virtual, augmented, and mixed reality. These research interests are a continuation and development of his PhD research, which substantially developed the theory and practice regarding the experience of Plausibility Illusion in virtual environments. Plausibility Illusion is distinguished from Place Illusion by being focused on different aspects of “realism”: While Place Illusion refers to the sensation of “really being there” in another place, Plausibility Illusion refers to the sensation that characteristics, behaviors, and events could “really happen.” 


Rick did his PhD research with the Effective Virtual Environments research group at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill under the supervision of Professors Mary C Whitton and Frederick P Brooks, Jr. His dissertation, Plausibility Illusion in Virtual Environments, was selected as the only honorable mention for the 2018 VGTC Virtual Reality Best Dissertation Award at IEEE Virtual Reality 2019. He was later a postdoctoral associate at Virginia Tech, working under the supervision of Joseph L Gabbard.