Immersive Virtual Environments: A Comparison of Mixed Reality and Virtual Reality Headsets for ASD Treatment

  • Tania Di MascioEmail author
  • Laura Tarantino
  • Giovanni De Gasperis
  • Chiara Pino
Conference paper
Part of the Advances in Intelligent Systems and Computing book series (AISC, volume 1007)


Since ’90s the use of ICT tools has been considered very promising in treatments of people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) experiencing difficulties in social communication and interaction. Recent literature agrees on potential benefits of Virtual Reality based treatment, particularly in learning processes related to social interaction. The study in this paper describes a usability experience of people with ASD in using Oculus Rift and HoloLens, state-of-the-art Head Mounted Displays (HMDs) allowing users to experience Immersive Virtual Reality and Mixed Reality, respectively. The study focuses on a homogenous target of high-functioning young adults (age 21–23) and aims at evaluating acceptability, usability, and engagement of the two HMDs with respect to such target andproviding general guidelines about applications of the two HMDs.


Human-centered computing Usability testing Mixed reality Virtual reality Laboratory experiments People with disabilities 



Authors wish to thank TetaLab people for the fruitful cooperation throughout the study, and Microsoft Italia for their support during the Microsoft sessions in Milan.


  1. 1.
    American Psychiatric Association: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-V. American Psychiatric Publishing, Arlington (2013)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Brown, E., Cairns, P.: A grounded investigation of game immersion. In: CHI 2004 Extended Abstracts on HF in CS (CHI EA 2004), pp. 1297–1300. ACM, New York (2004)Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Cofini, V., Di Giacomo, D., Di Mascio, T., Necozione, S., Vittorini, P.: Evaluation plan of TERENCE: when the user-centred design meets the evidence-based approach. In: Vittorini, P., et al. (eds.) International Workshop on EBUTEL. Advances in Intelligent and Soft Computing, vol 152. Springer, Heidelberg (2012)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Cole, J., Crowle, S., Austwick, G., Slater, D.H.: Exploratory findings with VR for phantom limb pain: from stump motion to agency and analgesia. Disabil. Rehabil. 31(10), 846–854 (2009)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Coman, L., Richardson, J.: Relationship between self-report and performance measures of function: a systematic review. J. Aging 25(3), 253–270 (2006)Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    De Gasperis, G., Mantini, S., Cordisco, A.: The virtual reconstruction project of unavailable monuments: the Church of Santa Maria Paganica in L’Aquila. In: Proceedings of Workshops at the 13th International Conference on Information Theory, pp. 31–33. Springer, Cham (2017)Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Fletcher-Watson, S., McConnell, F., Manola, E., McConachie, H.: Interventions based on the Theory of Mind cognitive model for autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Cochrane Database Syst. Rev. 21(3) (2014)Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Garzotto, F., Gelsomini, M., Occhiuto, D., Matarazzo, V., Messina, N.: Wearable immersive VR for children with disability: a case study. In: Proceedings of the 2017 Conference on Interaction Design and Children (IDC 2017), pp. 478–483. ACM, New York (2017)Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Lahiri, U., Bekele, E., Dohrmann, E., Warren, Z., Sarkar, N.: A physiologically informed virtual reality based social communication system for individuals with autism. J. Autism Dev. Disord. 45(4), 919–931 (2015)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Maskey, M., Lowry, J., Rodgers, H., McConachie, H., Parr, J.R.: Reducing specific phobia/fear in young people with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) through a virtual reality environment intervention. PLoS One 9(7) (2014)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Mesa-Gresa, P., Gil-Gómez, H., Lozano-Quilis, J.A., Gil-Gómez, J.A.: Effectiveness of virtual reality for children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder: an evidence-based systematic review. Sensors 18, 24–86 (2018)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Microsoft: Microsoft HoloLens Health and Safety (2017). Accessed 19 Jan 2018
  13. 13.
    Miller, H.L., Bugnariu, N.L.: Level of immersion in VEs impacts the ability to assess and teach social skills in ASD. Cyberpsychol. Behav. Soc. Netw. 19(4), 246–256 (2016)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Mitchell, P., Parsons, S., Leonard, A.: Using virtual environments for teaching social understanding to 6 adolescents with ASD. J. Autism Dev. Disord. 37(3), 589–600 (2007)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Newbutt, N., Sung, C., Kuo, H.J., Leahy, M.J., Lin, C.C., Tong, B.: Brief report: a pilot study of the use of a VR headset in ASD. J. Autism Dev. Disord. 46(9), 3166–3176 (2006)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    OculusVR: Oculus Rift Health and Safety (2018). Accessed 19 Jan 2018Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Parsons, S., Cobb, S.: State-of-the art of virtual reality technologies for children on the autism spectrum. Eur. J. Spec. Needs Educ. 26(3), 355–366 (2011)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Pearl, A.M., Edwards, E.M., Murray, M.J.: Comparison of self-and other-report of symptoms of autism and comorbid psychopathology in adults with autism spectrum disorder. Contemp. Behav. Health Care 2(1), 1–8 (2016). Scholar
  19. 19.
    Pino, M.C., Mazza, M.: The use of “Literary Fiction” to promote mentalizing ability. PLoS One 11(8), e0160254 (2016)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Ragan, E.D., Sowndararajan, A., Kopper, R., Bowman, D.A.: The effects of higher levels of immersion on procedure memorization performance and implications for educational virtual environments. Presence (Camb.) 19(6), 527–543 (2016)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Strickland, D.C., Marcus, L.M., Mesibov, G.B., Hogan, K.: Brief report: two case studies using VR as a learning tool for ASD. J. Autism Dev. Disord. 26(6), 651–659 (1996)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22. Improving the User Experience (2018). Accessed 19 Jan 2018Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Tarantino, L., Mazza, M., Valenti, M., De Gasperis, G.: Towards an integrated approach to diagnosis, assessment and treatment in autism spectrum disorders via a gamified TEL system. In: MIS4TEL, pp. 141–149. Springer, Cham (2016)Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Waller, D., Hunt, E., Knapp, D.: The transfer of spatial knowledge in virtual environment training. Presence (Camb.) 7(2), 129–143 (1998)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Walshe, C., Ewing, G., Griffiths, J.: Using observation as a data collection method to help understand patient and professional roles and actions in palliative care settings. Palliat. Med. 26(8), 1048–1054 (2012). Scholar
  26. 26.
    Wechsler, D.: Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale, 4th edn. Pearson, San Antonio (2008)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tania Di Mascio
    • 1
    Email author
  • Laura Tarantino
    • 1
  • Giovanni De Gasperis
    • 1
  • Chiara Pino
    • 1
  1. 1.Università degli Studi dell’AquilaL’AquilaItaly

Personalised recommendations