The study of humans' perceptual experiences in Virtual Environments (VEs) plays an essential role in Virtual
Reality (VR) research field. In particular, in the last years several researches were proposed regarding the
problem if depth and distance are perceived in VEs as they are perceived in Real Environments (REs), and
possibily what conditions affect a non correct estimation by the observers. This problem is very relevant in
order to use VR as a supporting tool in fields where correct perception of space and distance is vital, like e.g.
the training of personnel in dangerous environments.
Many theories have been suggested regarding the combination and relation between different depth cues;
unfortunately, no conclusive answer has been proposed. However, a common conclusion between all the
experiments is that observers underestimate long distances in VEs. Although the causes of this phenomenon
are still uncertain, it's reasonable to speculate that something must differ in the way distance and depth are
extracted and processed between the RE and the VE.
Moreover, it is worth noting that very few works considered VR installations with large projection screen,
covering a large field of view (FOV) in the observation process. In this paper, we aim at investigating depth
perception in the Virtual Theater of the University of Milan, a VR installation characterized by a large semicylindrical
screen that covers 120° of horizontal FOV. For its characteristics, the Virtual Theater represents
an interesting and never considered test ground for psychophysical experiments regarding deph perception in
We will present some preliminar perceptual matching experiments regarding the effect of shadows and
reflections in the estimation of distances in VEs, and we will discuss the obtained results.