“If It’s Not Me It Doesn’t Make a Difference” – The Impact of Avatar Personalization on User Experience and Body Awareness in Virtual Reality

N. Döllinger, M. Beck, E. Wolf, D. Mal, M. Botsch, M. Latoschik, and C. Wienrich. 2023 IEEE International Symposium on Mixed and Augmented Reality (ISMAR) , (2023)To be published.


Body awareness is relevant for the efficacy of psychotherapy. However, previous work on virtual reality (VR) and avatar-assisted therapy has often overlooked it. We investigated the effect of avatar individualization on body awareness in the context of VR-specific user experience, including sense of embodiment (SoE), plausibility, and sense of presence (SoP). In a between-subject design, 86 participants embodied three avatar types and engaged in VR movement exercises. The avatars were (1) generic and gender-matched, (2) customized from a set of pre-existing options, or (3) personalized photorealistic scans. Compared to the other conditions, participants with personalized avatars reported increased SoE, yet higher eeriness and reduced body awareness. Further, SoE and SoP positively correlated with body awareness across conditions. Our results indicate that VR user experience and body awareness do not always dovetail and do not necessarily predict each other. Future research should work towards a balance between body awareness and SoE.

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