Human orientation and spatial cognition partlydepends on our ability to remember sets ofvisual landmarks and imagine their relationshipto us from a different viewpoint. We normallymake large body rotations only about a singleaxis which is aligned with gravity. However,astronauts who try to recognize environmentsrotated in 3 dimensions report that theirterrestrial ability to imagine the relativeorientation of remembered landmarks does noteasily generalize. The ability of humansubjects to learn to mentally rotate a simplearray of six objects around them was studied in1-G laboratory experiments. Subjects weretested in a cubic chamber (n = 73) and aequivalent virtual environment (n = 24),analogous to the interior of a space stationnode module. A picture of an object waspresented at the center of each wall. Subjectshad to memorize the spatial relationships amongthe six objects and learn to predict thedirection to a specific object if their bodywere in a specified 3D orientation. Percentcorrect learning curves and response times weremeasured. Most subjects achieved high accuracyfrom a given viewpoint within 20 trials,regardless of roll orientation, and learned asecond view direction with equal or greaterease. Performance of the subject group thatused a head mounted display/head tracker wasqualitatively similar to that of the secondgroup tested in a physical node simulator. Body position with respect to gravity had asignificant but minor effect on performance ofeach group, suggesting that results may alsoapply to weightless situations. A correlationwas found between task performance measures andconventional paper-and-pencil tests of fieldindependence and 2&3 dimensional figurerotation ability.
Spatial Cognition and Computation – Springer Journals
Published: Oct 16, 2004
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