Norouzi, N., Kim, K., Lee, M., Schubert, R., Erickson A., Bailenson, J.N., Bruder, G., & Welch, G. (2019) Walking Your Virtual Dog: Analysis of Awareness and Proxemics with Simulated Support Animals in Augmented Reality. Proceedings of the IEEE International Symposium on Mixed and Augmented Reality (ISMAR), pp. 253-264.
Domestic animals have a long history of enriching human lives physically and mentally by filling a variety of different roles, such as service animals, emotional support animals, companions, and pets. Despite this, technological realizations of such animals in augmented reality (AR) are largely underexplored in terms of their behavior and interactions as well as effects they might have on human users’ perception or behavior. In this paper, we describe a simulated virtual companion animal, in the form of a dog, in a shared AR space. We investigated its effects on participants’ perception and behavior, including locomotion related to proxemics, with respect to their AR dog and other real people in the environment. We conducted a 22 mixed factorial human-subject study, in which we varied (i) the AR dog’s awareness and behavior with respect to other people in the physical environment and (ii) the awareness and behavior of those people with respect to the AR dog. Our results show that having an AR companion dog changes participants’ locomotion behavior, proxemics, and social interaction with other people who can or can not see the AR dog. We also show that the AR dog’s simulated awareness and behaviors have an impact on participants’ perception, including co-presence, animalism, perceived physicality, and dog’s perceived awareness of the participant and environment. We discuss our findings and present insights and implications for the realization of effective AR animal companions.