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Touching the Moon: Leveraging Passive Haptics, Embodiment and Presence for Operational Assessments in Virtual Reality

Florian Dufresne; Tommy Nilsson; Geoffrey Gorisse; Enrico Guerra; André Zenner; Olivier Christmann; Leonie Bensch; Nikolai Anton Callus; Aidan Cowley
In: Proceedings of the CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. ACM International Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI-2024), May 11-16, Honolulu, HI, USA, CHI '24, ISBN 9798400703300, Association for Computing Machinery, 5/2024.


Space agencies are in the process of drawing up carefully thought-out Concepts of Operations (ConOps) for future human missions on the Moon. These are typically assessed and validated through costly and logistically demanding analogue field studies. While interactive simulations in Virtual Reality (VR) offer a comparatively cost-effective alternative, they have faced criticism for lacking the fidelity of real-world deployments. This paper explores the applicability of passive haptic interfaces in bridging the gap between simulated and real-world ConOps assessments. Leveraging passive haptic props (equipment mockup and astronaut gloves), we virtually recreated the Apollo 12 mission procedure and assessed it with experienced astronauts and other space experts. Quantitative and qualitative findings indicate that haptics increased presence and embodiment, thus improving perceived simulation fidelity and validity of user reflections. We conclude by discussing the potential role of passive haptic modalities in facilitating early-stage ConOps assessments for human endeavours on the Moon and beyond.

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