A Test Setting to Compare Spatial Awareness on Paper and in Virtual Reality Using EEG Signals

  • Sander Van Goethem
  • Kimberly Adema
  • Britt van Bergen
  • Emilia Viaene
  • Eva Wenborn
  • Stijn VerwulgenEmail author
Conference paper
Part of the Advances in Intelligent Systems and Computing book series (AISC, volume 953)


Spatial awareness and the ability to analyze spatial objects, manipulate them and assess the effect thereof, is a key competence for industrial designers. Skills are gradually built up throughout most educational design programs, starting with exercises on technical drawings and reconstruction or classification of spatial objects from isometric projections and CAD practice. The accuracy in which spatial assignments are conducted and the amount of effort required to fulfill them, highly depend on individual insight, interests and persistence. Thus each individual has its own struggles and learning curve to master the structure of spatial objects in aesthetic and functional design. Virtual reality (VR) is a promising tool to expose subjects to objects with complex spatial structure, and even manipulate and design spatial characteristics of such objects. The advantage of displaying spatial objects in VR, compared to representations by projecting them on a screen or paper, could be that subjects could more accurately assess spatial properties of and object and its full geometrical and/or mechanical complexity, when exposed to that object in VR. Immersive experience of spatial objects, could not only result in faster acquiring spatial insights, but also potentially with less effort. We propose that acquiring spatial insight in VR could leverage individual differences in skills and talents and that under this proposition VR can be used as a promising tool in design education. A first step in underpinning this hypothesis, is acquisition of cognitive workload that can be used and compared both in VR and in a classical teaching context. We use electroencephalography (EEG) to assess brain activity through wearable plug and play headset (Wearable Sensing-DSI 7). This equipment is combined with VR (Oculus). We use QStates classification software to compare brain waves when conducting spatial assessments on paper and in VR. This gives us a measure of cognitive workload, as a ratio of a resulting from subject records with a presumed ‘high’ workload. A total number of eight records of subjects were suited for comparison. No significant difference was found between EEG signals (paried t-test, p = 0.57). However the assessment of cognitive workload was successfully validated through a questionnaire. The method could be used to set up reliable constructs for learning techniques for spatial insights.


Spatial awareness Virtual reality EEG Brain-computer interface Platonic solids Cognitive workload 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sander Van Goethem
    • 1
  • Kimberly Adema
    • 1
  • Britt van Bergen
    • 1
  • Emilia Viaene
    • 1
  • Eva Wenborn
    • 1
  • Stijn Verwulgen
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Faculty of Design Science, Product DevelopmentUniversity of AntwerpAntwerpBelgium

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