Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Human Centered Computing

Committee Chair/Advisor

Sophie Jorg

Committee Member

Andrew Robb

Committee Member

Guo Freeman

Committee Member

Nathan McNeese


Virtual reality (VR) is a growing method of communication and play. Recent advances have enabled hand-tracking technologies for consumer VR headsets, allowing virtual hands to mimic a user's real hand movements in real-time. A growing number of users now utilize hand-tracking when using VR to manipulate objects or to create gestures when interacting with others. As VR grows as a tool and communication platform, it is important to understand how the rising prevalence of hand-tracking technology might affect users' experiences.

The goal of this dissertation is to investigate, through a series of experiments, how using hand motions in VR influences our experience when we communicate with others or interact with the environment. In our daily lives hand motions play a major role in interpersonal communication. Our hands can help emphasize or clarify our speech, or even supplement words entirely. When interacting with the world, hands are our primary tool for manipulating objects and performing dexterous tasks. Bringing these capabilities into VR, a space that has so far been lacking in such detailed expression and interaction, may have unexpected effects.

Overall, we show that using hand-tracking and hand motions in VR is beneficial to many metrics that are used to measure the quality of experiences in virtual environments. When using accurate hand motions, people feel more comfortable and embodied within their virtual avatars, or they feel more socially present. We recommend tracking and displaying hand motions in virtual environments if embodiment or communication are the most important criteria.

Author ORCID Identifier




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