We present an immersive virtual environment being developed to study questions of risk perception and their impacts on effective training. Immersion is known to effect the quality of training in virtual environments, and the successful transfer of skills to real world situations. However, the level of perceived immersiveness that an environment invokes is an ill defined concept, and effects of different types of immersion are known to have greater and lesser influences on training outcomes. We concentrate on how immersiveness effects perceived risk in virtual environments, and how risk impacts training effectiveness. Simulated risk can invoke an alief of danger in subjects using a virtual environment. Alief is a concept useful in virtual training that describes situations where the person experiencing a simulated scenario knows it is not real, but suspends disbelief (willingly or unwillingly). This suspension of belief (alief) can cause the person to experience the same sorts of autonomic reactions as if they were experiencing the situation in real life (for example, think of fear invoked on amusement park rides). Alief of risk or danger has been proposed as one phenomenon that can influence training outcomes, like the experience of immersion, when training in virtual environments. In this paper we present work on developing a low-cost virtual environment for the manipulation of immersion and risk for cognitive studies. In this environment we provide several alternative input modalities, from mouse to Wii remote interactivity, to control a virtual avatar’s hand and arm for performing risky every day tasks. Immersion can be manipulated in several ways, as well as the type and risk associated with tasks. Typical tasks include performing kitchen preparation work (using knives or hot items), or wood or metal working tasks (involving manipulation of dangerous tools). This paper describes the development and technologies used to create the virtual environment, and how we vary risk perception and immersion of users for various cognitive tasks. The capabilities and manipulations of immersiveness and risk are presented together with some findings on using Wii motes as input devices in several ways for virtual environments. The paper concludes with some preliminary results of varying perceived risk on cognitive task performance in the developed environment.

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