The validity of environmental simulations depends on their capacity to replicate responses produced in physical environments. However, very few studies validate navigation differences in immersive virtual environments, even though these can radically condition space perception and therefore alter the various evoked responses. The objective of this paper is to validate environmental simulations using 3D environments and head-mounted display devices, at behavioural level through navigation. A comparison is undertaken between the free exploration of an art exhibition in a physical museum and a simulation of the same experience. As a first perception validation, the virtual museum shows a high degree of presence. Movement patterns in both 'museums' show close similarities, and present significant differences at the beginning of the exploration in terms of the percentage of area explored and the time taken to undertake the tours. Therefore, the results show there are significant time-dependent differences in navigation patterns during the first 2 minutes of the tours. Subsequently, there are no significant differences in navigation in physical and virtual museums. These findings support the use of immersive virtual environments as empirical tools in human behavioural research at navigation level.
The latest generation HMDs show a high degree of presence.
There are significant differences in navigation patterns during the first 2 minutes of a tour.
Adaptation time need to be considered in future research.
Training rooms need to be realistic, to avoid the 'wow' effect in the main experiment.
Results support the use of Virtual Reality and the latest HMDs as empirical tools in human behavioural research at navigation level.