Crowded streets, noise and gray buildings can lead to stress and fatigue. There are studies proving that city living can be bad for health and emotional well-being. An experiment conducted by the University of Lille, France, shows that an antidote to these problems may lie in incorporating more colorful patterns and “green spots” in buildings and streets.
“This study illustrates the potential of simple interventions to improve the lives of city dwellers, in addition to the power of virtual reality to test such interventions”, underline in a press release the authors of the study, led by researcher Yvonne Delevoye- Turrell and published in the latest issue of Frontiers in Virtual Reality magazine.
In the experiment, Delevoye-Turrell and team subjected 36 adult volunteers to experiments in different urban environments. An immersive urban environment without vegetation and another with plants were created. The group also placed colorful patterns along the paths to walk.
Wearing glasses and a virtual reality headset, the participants spent time exploring the environments created. During the experiment, the team assessed spontaneous walking speed, gaze behavior, perception of change, and physiological measures of the volunteers’ affective states.
To determine where they were looking and for how long, each helmet included an eye tracker. In this way, the team detected, for example, that adults spent less time looking at the ground and more time observing their surroundings in environments with vegetation. In these same settings, participants walked more slowly and had higher heart rates, indicating, according to the authors, that they had a more pleasant experience.
The color patterns, on their own, did not have the same restorative effect as the vegetation, but they stimulated the interest and fascination of the volunteers and attracted the eyes while increasing the heart rate, indicating an increase in excitement. physiological. “The results suggest that increasing the amount of vegetation and colorful patterns in urban environments can improve the well-being of city dwellers, giving a new interpretation to the term concrete jungle,” the authors point out.
Delevoye-Turrell draws attention to the fact that virtual reality has helped to see experiences that happen in real life. “Human responses are sensitive to environmental changes such as weather or traffic, and to measurement bias. Therefore, we are using virtual reality as a proof of concept to measure responses to these interventions in a simulated urban space.”
The effects observed also open up the possibility of using the technological tool by urban planners, allowing them to virtually test the impact of possible modifications in collective and high-traffic areas. In the future, the team hopes to make the virtual experience even more immersive, leading to more accurate results. “Smells and sounds could be the next step in virtual reality to truly test the impact of colors on the pleasure of walking,” says Delevoye-Turrell.