Effect of immersive visualization technologies on cognitive load, motivation, usability, and embodiment

N. Wenk*, J. Penalver-Andres, K. A. Buetler, T. Nef, R. M. Müri, L. Marchal-Crespo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
13 Downloads (Pure)


Virtual reality (VR) is a promising tool to promote motor (re)learning in healthy users and brain-injured patients. However, in current VR-based motor training, movements of the users performed in a three-dimensional space are usually visualized on computer screens, televisions, or projection systems, which lack depth cues (2D screen), and thus, display information using only monocular depth cues. The reduced depth cues and the visuospatial transformation from the movements performed in a three-dimensional space to their two-dimensional indirect visualization on the 2D screen may add cognitive load, reducing VR usability, especially in users suffering from cognitive impairments. These 2D screens might further reduce the learning outcomes if they limit users’ motivation and embodiment, factors previously associated with better motor performance. The goal of this study was to evaluate the potential benefits of more immersive technologies using head-mounted displays (HMDs). As a first step towards potential clinical implementation, we ran an experiment with 20 healthy participants who simultaneously performed a 3D motor reaching and a cognitive counting task using: (1) (immersive) VR (IVR) HMD, (2) augmented reality (AR) HMD, and (3) computer screen (2D screen). In a previous analysis, we reported improved movement quality when movements were visualized with IVR than with a 2D screen. Here, we present results from the analysis of questionnaires to evaluate whether the visualization technology impacted users’ cognitive load, motivation, technology usability, and embodiment. Reports on cognitive load did not differ across visualization technologies. However, IVR was more motivating and usable than AR and the 2D screen. Both IVR and AR rea ched higher embodiment level than the 2D screen. Our results support our previous finding that IVR HMDs seem to be more suitable than the common 2D screens employed in VR-based therapy when training 3D movements. For AR, it is still unknown whether the absence of benefit over the 2D screen is due to the visualization technology per se or to technical limitations specific to the device.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages25
JournalVirtual Reality
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Augmented Reality
  • Cognitive Load
  • Embodiment
  • Immersive Virtual Reality
  • Motivation
  • Usability


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