What is the first thing people do, when they meet and speak with a person for the first time? In Western cultures, they introduce themselves, and then shake hands.
(Unless there is a virus pandemic, that is.)
A pilot study by HumaniVR’s Mathis Göcht and Anna Schwanke has shown that students who meet each other for the first time in VR attempt to have their avatars do exactly that: shake hands.
Obviously, it doesn’t really work satisfactorily: the necessary haptic feedback to the inside of the hand hasn’t been developed in current VR controllers yet, so in fact, the avatars’ hands just pass through each other and quiver asynchronously – a most awkward handshake.
In their thesis, Göcht and Schwanke have also observed the attempt of High-Fiving in VR after successfully solving a problem together – a rather standard reaction, but again with unsatifactory results: hands passing through each other, no satisfying “slap” sound, no mild burning at the inside of the hand.
Tl;dr: High-Fiving in VR is no fun at all.
The academic take:
Currently, users’ (beginners’) real-world cultural practices heavily influence their practice in VR and still seem to ‘override’ the knowledge of the possibilities and limitations of the technology.
We will continue to research this “culture-VR-bias” … and see whether the opposite phenomenon (a “VR-culture-bias”) also develops down the road (e.g. with experienced VR-users?).
Göcht and Schwanke’s work is yet to be published. If you are interested in a ‘sneak preview’, you may contact the authors.