An immersive virtual peer for studying social influences on child cyclists' road-crossing behavior

Friday, July 25, 2014


The goal of our work is to develop a programmatically controlled peer to bicycle with a human subject for the purpose of studying how social interactions influence road-crossing behavior. The peer is controlled through a combination of reactive controllers that determine the gross motion of the virtual bicycle, action-based controllers that animate the virtual bicyclist and generate verbal behaviors, and a keyboard interface that allows an experimenter to initiate the virtual bicyclist’s actions during the course of an experiment. The virtual bicyclist’s repertoire of behaviors includes road following, riding alongside the human rider, stopping at intersections, and crossing intersections through specified gaps in traffic. The virtual cyclist engages the human subject through gaze, gesture, and verbal interactions. We describe the structure of the behavior code and report the results of a study examining how 10-and 12-year-old children interact with a peer cyclist that makes either risky or safe choices in selecting gaps in traffic. Results of our study revealed that children who rode with a risky peer were more likely to cross intermediate-sized gaps than children who rode with a safe peer. In addition, children were significantly less likely to stop at the last six intersections after the experience of riding with the risky than the safe peer during the first six intersections. The results of the study and children’s reactions to the virtual peer indicate that our virtual peer framework is a promising platform for future behavioral studies of peer influences on children’s bicycle riding behavior.

To read the full paper:

Babu, S., Grechkin, T., Chihak, B., Ziemer, C., Kearney, J., Cremer, J., & Plumert, J. (2011). An immersive virtual peer for studying social influences on child cyclists’road-crossing behavior. IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics, 17, 14-25.