Virtual Reality headsets have evolved to include unprecedented display quality. Meantime, they have become light-weight, wireless and low-cost, which has opened to new applications and a much wider audience. Photo-based omnidirectional imaging has also developed, becoming directly exploitable for VR, with their combination proven suitable for: remote visits and realistic scene reconstruction, operator’s training and control panels, surveillance and e-tourism. There is however a limited amount of scientific work assessing VR experience and user’s performance in photo-based environment representations. This paper focuses on assessing the effect of photographic realism in VR when observing real places through a VR headset, for two different pixel-densities of the display, environment types and familiarity levels. Our comparison relies on the observation of static three-dimensional and omnidirectional photorealistic views of environments. The aim is to gain an insight about how photographic texture can affect perceived realness, sense of presence and provoked emotions, as well as perception of image-lighting and actual space dimension (true-dimension). Two user studies are conducted based on subjective rating and measurements given by users to a number of display and human factors. The display pixel-density affected the perceived image-lighting and prevailed over better lighting specs. The environment illumination and distance to objects generally played a stronger role than display. The environment affected the perceived image-lighting, spatial presence, depth impression and specific emotions. Distances to a set of objects were generally accurately estimated. Place familiarity enhanced perceived realism and presence. They confirmed some previous studies, but also introduced new elements.
- Extended Reality, Head Mounted Displays, Photorealism, Visualization.