Effect of Travel Speed on the Visual Control of Steering Toward a Goal

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Previous studies have proposed that people can use visual cues such as the instantaneous direction (i.e., heading) or future path trajectory of travel specified by optic flow or target visual direction in egocentric space to steer or walk toward a goal. In the current study, we examined what visual cues people use to guide their goal-oriented locomotion and whether their reliance on such visual cues changes as travel speed increases. We presented participants with optic flow displays that simulated their self-motion toward a target at various travel speeds under two viewing conditions in which we made target egocentric direction available or unavailable for steering. We found that for both viewing conditions, participants did not steer along a curved path toward the target such that the actual and the required path curvature to reach the target would converge when approaching the target. At higher travel speeds, participants showed a faster and larger reduction in target-heading angle and more accurate and precise steady-state control of aligning their heading specified by optic flow with the target. These findings support the claim that people use heading and target egocentric direction but not path for goal-oriented locomotion control, and their reliance on heading increases at higher travel speeds. The increased reliance on heading for goal-oriented locomotion control could be due to an increased reliability in perceiving heading from optic flow as the magnitude of flow increases with travel speed.

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